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The Advancement of AI and Mixed Reality Technologies for Continued Training and Development in the Healthcare Industry




Depicting doctors and patients using Extended Reality in a healthcare setting.

While advancements have transformed many aspects of our lives over the past century, training and teaching has in a large part relied on a single person imparting their knowledge to a group, either in person or on-line.  This is validated by the standardised testing system, built from a curriculum designed to serve the needs of a wide spectrum of learners. These methods are apparent in various stages of our lives, from high school through to our places of work. Many come to realise that with any type of learning, half the class will be learning at a different pace from the other. In reality, there is no such thing as standardised learning—everyone learns in different ways and at different paces. These traditional forms of learning and testing have also limited people's ability to access high-quality learning based on where they live and work. Sadly, the quality of training and learning is not geographically evenly distributed.

While face-to-face simulated training is considered the most effective form, the high costs associated with travel, venue, and available personnel present challenges in delivering quality training at scale. Immersive technologies have opened doors to personalised one-on-one simulated learning, proving their effectiveness in enhancing knowledge retention and enabling learning anywhere and anytime.

When it comes to the topic of technology and its intersection with education, we are excited about the excellent opportunities to better serve a range of learning needs. Tailored programs that students can access via web-enabled devices make accessing educational tools much easier, and this learning can be done at a bespoke pace for individuals. Some may argue that we are heading down a perilous path of dehumanising the way we learn. On the contrary, studies have found that XR technologies can enhance empathy since they can put users into the virtual shoes of their patients and create real-world scenarios. Some critics argue that encouraging people to spend more time on devices could prove to be a problem. However, any innovation must be robustly scrutinised, and innovators must do their best to mitigate overconsumption. It is no shock to us that some digital content, particularly those employed by entertainment and social media companies, exist to keep people hooked, but in the case of education and learning this does not ring true. Technology should not replace human interaction but act as effective scaffolding to aid faster learning and enable greater access to high-quality education and training, no matter where you live. Technology is what will take new learning formats above and beyond the traditional systems in place, but only if it is applied in the right way, both structurally and ethically.

Due to advancements in science, healthcare, and lifestyle, we are all living longer, and our end-of-life care is becoming more complex. There is a greater demand to implement enhanced training for existing healthcare professionals and a substantially increased need for new trained staff to join the healthcare services. For example, the UK’s NHS Long Term Workforce Plan published in 2023 forecasted the need to increase adult nursing training places by 65–80 percent by 2030/31. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has already pledged to start to “modernise” nurse training. The NMC is allowing students to undertake around a quarter of their practice hours as simulated practice to help alleviate the shortage of available placement hours within hospitals.

Employing Technology for Immersive Learning

We learn better by doing. How many times do we have to look at our tickets as we board a train or plane to see what our seat number is? Despite being crucial at the time, that information never seems to stick. Conversely, following clear instructions to build a tent makes disassembly all the more simple, as the knowledge has already been gained through action. There is only so much lecture-style learning and written exams can do. Getting hands-on in a practical environment, being engaged with the tools and materials in front of you, and even being awarded the freedom to make mistakes are the more effective ways we retain knowledge. By using immersive technologies, we can build virtual simulators for almost any healthcare scenario. The analytics for each session give the learner specific feedback on the areas they need to focus on and also confidence in what they are doing right.

Technology on (and off) the Frontline

There’s a reason why aerospace companies and airlines have almost universally used flight simulators for many years. Virtual simulations allow for immersive and imprinting training tools, taking trainees into the heart of their work and allowing for stronger retention. At The Cassette Group, we know that this approach works, as we partnered with Baxter to develop a 3D digital twin of the PRISMAX 2 dialysis machine, which is now used for virtual training around the world and has been translated into ten languages. PRISMAX 2 is designed to deliver Continuous Renal Replacement Therapy (CRRT) in critically ill patients in the ICU.

This solution employs rewarding gamification-style techniques, enabling users to train in real-time scenarios with the data from those experiences integrated with a traditional learning management system. During the pandemic, trainers were not always able to get access to hospitals to train people on how to use very important medical equipment, but by making a digital twin which behaved the same as the real dialysis machine, they could learn remotely through any internet connected device or VR Headset. Through these replicas, healthcare professionals can learn how to use the devices and can develop the muscle memory needed to provide crucial care for patients that they can take with them on the frontline.

The next step for providers of these experiences and tools will be democratising access and destigmatising the technology needed to drive them forward. Not every healthcare provider will have the budget to fund the purchase of multiple VR headsets, and many of the VR headsets that do exist on the market may prove to be too complex for the purpose they need to serve. While we wait for this technology to become more accessible and affordable, these tools need to be made available on mobile phones as much as possible, which everyone has access to. Destigmatizing technology and artificial intelligence will also normalize conversations around immersive experiences and help healthcare providers understand what incredible things this innovation can do for their teams and their patients when they onboard it.

The Application of AI in a Healthcare Environment

Just as there are justified fears surrounding overconsumption, there is a hesitancy stemming from conversations about AI. It is sometimes portrayed in the media as a lawless enigma set to take over our jobs and everything, we see around us.  However, like any innovative technology there is an initial fear followed by greater understanding and acceptance.  Of course we need to be careful, with security and safety built in. In the right environments, such as in healthcare training, the power AI holds is second to none.

Cutting-edge training tools that combine the power of artificial intelligence with virtual characters provide an immersive and lifelike training experience for healthcare professionals through a web browser or via a VR headset. With AI-powered virtual patients, users can enhance their diagnostic and patient interaction skills by engaging in realistic and natural conversations. The characters respond dynamically to inquiries and display human-like emotions, providing realistic training experience. Each virtual patient presents a unique case, sharing their symptoms, duration, medical history, family medical history, and occupational details. Users can analyse the information, ask further questions and make informed decisions to narrow down potential diagnoses. 

The training tool meticulously records interactions, tracking the virtual character's sentiment, the achievement of goals (such as correct diagnoses or necessary steps taken) and the time spent on each case. This comprehensive feedback helps identify areas for improvement, refine skills, and improve competency. What is more, the feedback from these processes can feed into the technology and the businesses creating the tools, allowing them to make improvements for future iterations of the technology. 

There is so much potential for this technology and we look forward to seeing how technology companies, healthcare establishments and training providers can all come together to create more robust systems to better serve everyone’s needs. 

Michael Wyrley-Birch is the Chief Strategy Officer of Cassette Group. He's a marketing and communications expert who has worked closely with leading global clients AT&T, Bacardi, BMW Group, FIFA, Google, and Nissan. Before his role at Cassette, he was the CEO of global communication agencies TRO Group, Story House (LA) and CDM Healthcare Milan.