Research

Investigative and evaluative research in the field of immersive VR in healthcare is still young and developing. Generating empirical knowledge through research is crucial for immersive VR in healthcare. Furthermore, rigorously developed research designs and methodologies can inspire and guide other healthcare organisations who are still in the nascent period of immersive technology adoption or implementation. We aim to be at the forefront of this.

Our focus during the initial years of the VR Lab was on developing immersive experiences and content that could be shared across TSDFT and neighbouring NHS Trusts. Today we are at a stage where we have helped other NHS Trusts within our region in successfully building their own VR Labs and use our 360-degree content. Having gained experience as producers, our focus is now moving toward developing research studies to understand the implications on users of these immersive experiences. We are sensitive towards the humanities or ‘humanistic skills’ theme of our focus, and much of our research interest lies in the human factors and non-technical affordances that immersive technologies has.

At the TSDFT VR Lab, we have developed several interventions to meet the requirements of Torbay hospital’s key priority domains- healthcare workers, medical students, and patients.

Our aim is to deliver non-technical interventions that can be integrated seamlessly into various education and training programmes throughout the organisation. Ideally, immersive interventions should be usable and effective to ensure their long-term acceptability and implications on learning outcomes. This can be determined through investigation of the efficacies and effectiveness of the interventions.

Our current research work involves two types of studies- research, and service quality evaluations. Some examples of our current projects include;

1. Researching immersive technologies for healthcare workers

Gamified VR for teaching effective team communication

We have conducted a service quality evaluation, and we are working on a longitudinal research to study the implications of using a VR Game-Keep Talking and Nobody explodes, on healthcare team communication.

First person perspectives for behaviour change

Series of 360-degree immersive experiences are used along-side simulation workshops (TEREMA- Team Resource Management) to help healthcare workers in learning valuable skills, which are useful toward effective team behaviour. Healthcare is known for its hierarchies. Through first person perspectives of junior doctors and nurses, we aim to teach healthcare workers about other people’s experiences. We are currently developing protocol for evaluating the service quality of this immersive intervention.

Community Sim-Lab

We are working alongside Professor Bob Stone at Birmingham University on a Community Simulation Project that involves use of Mixed Reality (MR). Bob’s team have designed scenarios that pair with a purpose developed physical space to team first-responders the skills of empathy and effective communication with patients. This research is also part of Liz Tooby’s MSc Thesis (Plymouth University)

Healthcare workers well-being

We have worked alongside Birmingham University’s Professor Bob Stone’s team in developing 360-degree landscape scenarios that are narrated by Sir. David Attenborough. A large part of our immersive technologies programme focuses on developing experiences for improving healthcare workers mental well-being. The David Attenborough nature experience can be accessed in staff well-being room at Torbay hospital. We are researching the implications of these experiences on staff’s anxiety in partnership with Professor Stone’s team.

2. Researching immersive technologies for medical students

Empathy training for medical students

We are using Nick’s Patient VR to teach the important skill of empathy to medical students. Patient VR includes a series of 360-degree first person perspectives of patients for students to view. These experiences are paired along-side classroom teaching.

Torbay hospital is attended by students from Plymouth University and Exeter University. We are currently researching the implication of VR on Y3 and Y4 medical student empathy.

3. Researching immersive technologies for patients

VR for pain and anxiety distraction

VR headsets are loaned out to different departments around TSDFT. We are currently working with Susan Stewart (Podiatrist) to enrol podiatry patients in a VR for pain and anxiety distraction study. Our research studies the effect of calming VR experiences on patient’s pain and anxiety during toe-nail removal surgery.

*Due to COVID-19 we have stopped research that involves medical students and patients. However, we continue to investigate role of immersive technologies in helping healthcare workers deal with the stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic.

We are keen on developing research partnerships. Please contact us here to get in touch.