Low risk, high reward: Using VR for training front-line workers

Giving learners a way to practice as much as needed without risk to themselves or others

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Oculus by Facebook supplied

Virtual reality (VR) is providing a safe space for high-risk training scenarios, ranging from surgical techniques to heavy equipment operations. The technology offers a significant boost to all types of safety-related training by giving learners the ability to practice as many times as needed to learn a skill, without risk to themselves or others.

In the healthcare space, for example, VR allows surgeons to train on new procedures and medical equipment that they would have missed out on previously due to the lack of trainers and the time required for physical practice. Most importantly, VR lets surgeons develop a deep understanding of specific procedures or new devices before using the techniques on live patients.

“Learning curve data shows that you have to perform a new procedure 100 times to be proficient,” says Justin Barad, M.D., the founder of Osso VR, a surgical training and assessment platform. “We often didn’t use the new devices for safety reasons – we didn’t have time to learn everything well enough.”

Healthcare providers are already putting VR to use to train surgeons and students. For example, Johnson & Johnson Institute’s Education Technology & Innovation team utilizes Oculus for Business hardware with Osso VR software to create training modules for surgeons that let them learn the steps of a procedure in a realistic virtual setting that carries no risk to patients.

A similar program at UConn Health lets students use VR for training as an alternative to medical cadavers. VR also allows for better feedback between instructor and student. A “double-loop” learning system lets residents make mistakes and gives them feedback to use on their next attempt. “The magic part for us is that we can go over an entire case multiple times,” says Dr. Augustus Mazzocca, director of the UConn Health Musculoskeletal Institute and professor of orthopaedic surgery. “I can connect via computer and see what the residents are seeing -- I become their eyes, I can see how quickly they’re looking at things, what they’re looking at, and how they’re reacting to various situations.”

Empathy and safety 

In financial services, Farmers Insurance is using VR to help claims adjusters learn about on-site inspections, for claims such as car or water damage. Simulations help adjusters learn how to assess a situation in a home or at a business. “VR has allowed us to really shrink the time it takes to put someone into an experience. We can immerse them into hundreds of actual scenarios, so from Day 1 they’re providing more empathy to our customers,” said Tim Murray, SVP and Head of Claims Shared Services at Farmers Insurance.

In other industries, VR training keeps the workers themselves safe as they learn. For example, VR simulations provide workers with safe instruction on heavy equipment maintenance procedures or power tool usage. VR can also help improve safety awareness in settings such as warehouses.

For example, IAG Cargo uses a VR solution to onboard and upskill employees in its Ascentis freight handling center at London’s Heathrow Airport, which manages more than 500,000 tons of cargo annually. With such a large warehouse and more than 2,000 employees moving cargo, there wasn’t enough time to show new (and existing) employees around the warehouse, what their colleagues do, or how they do it. The VR solution shows staffers how a piece of freight moves through the facility, with interactive stops that provide information, training, and safety awareness. Employees can safely practice “driving” a forklift or preparing cargo for an aircraft before they do it for real.

These types of programs not only reduce risk – they also increase productivity. IAG saw dramatic improvement in employees’ understanding of warehouse operations, as well as a reduction in tour time from 90 minutes to 15 minutes.

Learn more about how VR can eliminate physical barriers to provide new ways for companies to connect, collaborate, and learn.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.