Envisioning the future of healthcare training

I spent four weeks building a Virtual Reality experience, focused on healthcare training. This project stemmed from the lifelong influence of my mother who recently retired from nursing. I grew up listening to my mother’s efforts to provide the utmost, selfless care for her patients and all of the hardships she went through over the last thirty years in the field.

To express one of my dreams of contributing to the future of medicine through AR/VR technology, I challenged myself by going through an extensive UX design process, as well as leveraging new skills in 3D modeling and programming to design this immersive experience.

Passion Project: Healthcare

Team: I’m alone 😔

Timeline: 4 weeks | May, 2021 - June, 2021

Role: UX/UI, 3D, Strategy, Development

Tech: Unity, Blender, Figma, Oculus Rift S

THE PROBLEM

Healthcare nurses lack sufficient hands-on training and the consequences are staggering.

The U.S. healthcare system is failing and one of the most detrimental contributing factors is the lack of resources to provide the education and training nursing students and professionals need.

THE SOLUTION

A Virtual Reality experience that provides realistic hands-on training for nurses in a safe and fun immersive environment.

IMMERSIVE HANDS-ON TRAINING

Your nursing education is about to change.

Welcome to this immersive healthcare training experience where nursing students and professionals can continue their education through virtual hands-on training, in a safe environment. Strategically crafted to replicate real-life scenarios, you’ll forget you’re in a virtual environment.

INTERACTIVE ONBOARDING

Master using VR hardware in minutes.

Our objective was to make this product quick and straightforward. We designed our experience to teach you how to master using VR hardware in a matter of minutes.

INTUITIVE MAIN MENU

Realistic training at the click of a button.

Get the most out of your education through a list of tutorials that will interactively teach you how to perform in various real-life situations.

VIRTUAL EXAMINATIONS

Confident with your skills? Test yourself.

Let’s put your knowledge and skills to the test. No instructions. No help. Just you, your equipment and your virtual patient.

The Process

DECISIONS & CONSTRAINTS

Project scope

In the beginning, before I considered entering the research phase, I planned out how I could accomplish this project in four weeks. I considered the fact that I’m alone for the entire duration and I’m held responsible for the entire design process.

I limited the size of this project based on my current skills and knowledge by focusing on user experience design, as well as leveraging new skills in 3D modeling and programming. By focusing on my specialties, I was able achieve the results I expected within a four-week period.

SECONDARY RESEARCH

What is causing the U.S. healthcare system to fail?

The project officially took off and I began my process with secondary research. I examined contributing factors towards the decline of the system in the past few decades and what that spells for the years to come.

Nursing schools continue to reject qualified students

“U.S. schools are being forced to turn away qualified applicants due to a lack of nursing educators available to teach,” says Christina Morgan on her article “Why Are Nursing Schools Rejecting Thousands of Applicants?,” which was published on MedPageToday in 2018.

A majority of healthcare nurses are nearing retirement and most don’t want to transition to teaching because of their advanced age and the huge salary difference. With less educators and resources, there’s less opportunities for students to earn a nursing degree.


U.S. nursing schools turned away 80,407 qualified applications from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2019.

- American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN)


Nursing shortage

Fewer graduating classes mean fewer young nurses breaking into the field. In a study by Registered Nursing in 2021, “Is Nursing Education Contributing to the Nursing Shortage? ,” the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) says “one major contribution to the nursing shortage is that there are simply not enough nursing instructors, clinical sites, and classroom space for those wishing to enter the profession.”

But that’s not all, if these problems persist, the National Center for Biotechnology (NCBI) predicts a “projected shortage of 510,394 registered nurses nationwide by 2030.”



Medical errors

The problem doesn't end at the nursing shortage. The flawed educational system is increasing the risk of medical errors because new nurses lack proper training to handle life and death situations. The system is to blame, not the workers.


More than 250,000 deaths per year are due to medical error in the U.S.

- John Hopkins study, 2016

This report was published by John Hopkins Medicine in 2016. What’s scary is how high that number is today during a pandemic where medical students, who already lack sufficient training, have their education expedited in hopes of meeting demand.

BUSINESS VALUE

What can disrupt healthcare?

There is still hope for the future of healthcare. To achieve this, companies must invest into new training methods and technologies that promote long-term benefits for nurses, as well as businesses.

Adoption of VR technology

VR technology shows a promising future as it can produce fully-trained nurses and increase cost-savings.

In addition, "The global VR in the healthcare market is projected to reach $30.40 billion by 2026, exhibiting a CAGR of 42.4% during 2019-2026," according to Prableen Bajpai in a Nasdaq report, "How Virtual Reality (VR) Is Impacting the Healthcare Industry".


Healthcare is ultimately where we'll see VR's biggest impact to date on humanity.

PRIMARY RESEARCH

Insight from registered nurses

I closed out my secondary research and I moved onto gathering more information by conducting 1:1 interviews with 10 registered nurses.

Focus groups

I achieved the most of my interviews by speaking to an entire generation of nursing professionals.


Age Demographic

Recent graduates: 25+

Veterans: 40+

Retired: 60+


Interview results

In my interviews I found an urgent need for new training methods and equipment. Recent graduates addressed how difficult it is to apply what they learned in school to real-life situations that require quick judgement.


“We definitely need more training on mannequins and pads. You don’t really learn how to perform injections because there’s already injection holes from previous students. So I find it inefficient.”

- Interview response



“Basically, out of all the school and training, both hands-on and in the classroom, I feel like I had the least experience with being able to think critically in a stressful situation with very little time to make a decision.

Even after orientation, I still find myself in situations where I freeze up and don't know what do for my patients when they suddenly become critical. But like, I did learn what to do in school. My body just doesn't connect the book knowledge to the clinical application. They keep telling me that ‘it comes with experience,’ but these can be very scary scenarios, and if I can't act quickly, my patients can suffer.

We need VR simulation labs in nursing school.”

- Interview response


The skills they wanted more training in

I expected to receive a lot of feedback, but surprisingly, only three responsibilties were brought up that these nurses wish they had more training in:

Head-to-toe assessments

IV injections

SubQ (subcutaneous) injections

COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS

Who is already applying VR in healthcare?

To complete my research, I looked into existing VR products in the current market that focus on healthcare training. Two notable companies were the Oxford Medical Simulation and Osso VR.


Oxford Medical Simulation

Screenshot taken from the official Oxford Medical Simulation trailer


Osso VR

Screenshot taken from the official Osso VR trailer

USERFLOW

Ideating the experience

Now, it was time to begin building my experience. Initially, crafting the userflow took many paths, but to maintain accessibility and usability, I structured it off these two concepts:

• Teach users how to use VR through simple and interactive instructions.

• Guide users to reach the main content as soon as possible.


PROTOTYPE & TEST

Assembling the 3D environment and spatial UI

During the design phase, I found rapid prototyping easier to achieve since Blender natively works in Unity. I originally thought building the experience would take a while due to my inexperience with VR.

To my surprise, I saved a week's worth of time because any changes I made in Blender were automatically updated in Unity. Also, designing the UI in Figma and building it in Unity proved to be less-time consuming.



• Early model of the patient room from Blender with the current scene viewed in Unity.




• At this stage of modeling, I tested my scene to find size adjustments were needed, followed by creating more assets to make a convincing environment.




• Final Unity scene with baked lighting, UV correction and post-processing.




• Marble flooring - procedural texture made in Blender.




• Glossy wood - procedural texture made in Blender.




• Tiled ceiling - procedural texture made in Blender.




Onboarding

The onboarding was the most important part of the experience. My ideal approach was to create a completely interactive experience with visual cues and a AI that would transition each scene after certain tasks were completed.

However, that was beyond my current programming capabilities, so I developed an alternative solution that worked just as great.

I created two versions of the onboarding that I had users test. Both versions had instructions in the form of images and text, but the first version involved picking up various medical equipment, while the second version had users play with cubes.

Surprisingly, the latter gained more favor from my testers, claiming it was “more fun” than picking up medical equipment.




Main Menu

After the onboarding, users can choose from a list of scenarios they can practice on. I featured the three responsibilties mentioned from my interviews with each scenario having the option to begin its corresponding tutorial or examination.




Examination

Finally, the examination was essential to test a user’s skills by removing the step-by-step tutorial function; leaving them in a realistic scenario where they must train their minds to think critically and quickly. Of course, if they wish to leave the simulation at any time, there is an ever-present exit menu found within their field of view.

CONCLUSION

Reflection & Learnings

This project was the result of spending the past few months learning Unity and Blender. My hunger for knowledge and my love for technology drove me to acquire new skills I previously thought I wasn’t capable of achieving. In addition, building this experience with my current knowledge of VR design boosted my confidence and deepened my love for emerging technologies.

My next steps is to continue expanding my UX/UI, 3D modeling and programming skills to explore the possibilities.

If you like my work, let's chat!

I'm currently open to potential Product Design opportunities.
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