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Health Care Workers in New York Add Virtual Reality to Their Arsenal of Training Tools

Published: June 29, 2022
An attendee demonstrates the Shiftall Megane X virtual reality headphones, Haritora X full-body tracking system, and mutalk microphone for metaverse experiences during CES Unveiled ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Jan. 3, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. New York City’s Health + Hospitals will be leveraging VR technology to improve training for their OB professionals. (Image: PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images) Masks and proof of vaccination are required at the show that opens Wednesday and was trimmed by one day to end Friday, with expected exhibitors down more than half to roughly 2,200 from the last in-person CES. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

On June 16, New York City Health + Hospitals announced via a press release that new virtual reality (VR) technology will be added to its obstetrics simulation training. 

The technology, co-developed with Health Scholars, will provide “innovative VR healthcare simulations” that will allow healthcare professionals to hone their skills to better detect and successfully address rare but -life-threatening health conditions that can occur during labor and delivery. 

The new technology will complement the training OB providers are already receiving from in-person training and will allow healthcare professionals to experience simulated “life-like” scenarios through a VR headset while “improving competencies and promoting knowledge retention at their convenience during shifts.”

The initiative builds on the municipal healthcare system’s commitment to combating maternal mortality and will address “disparities present among people of color,” reads the press release. 

Upon donning a headset, trainees will be transported virtually to a labor and delivery suite where they will interact with a patient and other team members using voice communications and real-time interactions. 

In the simulation, the trainee will be responsible for directing the clinical team to perform tasks consistent with hospital protocol, which will allow “them to realistically practice critical cognitive skills like communication, teamwork, critical thinking and decision-making during an emergency.”

The municipal healthcare system plans on acquiring 22 VR headsets, two for each hospital. OB providers will be able to use them to complete training while on shift. 

“This training will be another arm added to the ongoing obstetrical simulation training and maternal home pre and post-natal care as part of a larger Maternal Mortality Reduction Program,” the press release reads.

The initiative is an improvement on the current system which required healthcare providers to schedule time to travel to simulation labs. The integration of VR technology into each hospital will allow healthcare professionals to access training at their place of work, around their schedule.

Per the press release, New York City Mayor, Eric Adams, said, “We must do right by all expecting families and close the significant pregnancy-related health disparities that Black and Brown moms face,” adding that, “By investing in technology to train health care providers on how to safely deliver babies in life-threatening scenarios, we are ensuring that all expecting parents and babies have access to the quality care they deserve.”

“We know that Black women are affected disproportionately related to maternal mortality and morbidity and we must utilize every opportunity to close those equity gaps,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “I am excited to see NYC Health + Hospitals leveraging technology in service and support their obstetricians and the New Yorkers they serve. These new tools are yet another part of how the city is working to provide safe, healthy births for every expectant person and family,” she said. 

Wendy Wilcox, NYC Health + Hospitals Chief Women’s Health Officer, said she was proud the agency is a leader in virtual reality. “Thankfully, serious and life-threatening conditions during childbirth, labor, and the postpartum period are uncommon. However, ensuring that our providers have the skills necessary to deal with these critical situations is paramount,” she said.