3D virtual environments are becoming the latest frontier of medical education and community building. With the amazing expansion of virtual healthcare solutions that occurred over the last few years, which have become a cost- and time-efficient opportunity for hundreds of thousands of patients and doctors, the medical community has become increasingly familiar with digital technologies, discovering the disrupting and revolutionary power that online interaction can have on their work.
3D immersive technologies have already been used in the medical field (see on the use of second life: Organizing Medical Events in Virtual Environments, and Healthcare Equitability). Participants in medical and pharmaceutical events and courses can benefit the most from the 3D component.
What are the features of 3D virtual environments that are particularly beneficial to the medical community?
Peer-to-peer interaction plays a very relevant role for the medical community. Growing a network of valuable personal relations is of paramount importance. 3D environments replicating real-life dynamics, thus fostering engagement and life-like interaction, are therefore particularly beneficial to this professional category.
In the medical field, conferences, conventions, and learning opportunities are extremely frequent. Only in North America, there are more than 600 medical conventions, events and conference every year, which means about 2 events every day. Being able to physically attend all the events of interest is time- and cost-prohibitive.
The solution is 3D immersive virtual environments that can combine effective life-like networking with content sharing, training and learning opportunities.
A very interesting insight in this field comes from a research conducted by a group of forward-thinking physicians: the infographic (excerpt below) is very powerful and clear in communicating future trends in medical education (Ashfield – Future Forum Medical Education, moderated by Dr Bertalan Meskó, see also on the topic: Introducing the Ashield Medical Education Future Forum, Channelling the Future in Medical Education published on Pharmaforum).
As outlined by Dr. Bertalan Meskó, Medical education must finally step up to meet the expectations of empowered patients, the needs of busy physicians, and the use of disruptive technologies.
Source: Channelling the future in medical education.
In such a context, 3D environments are attracting more and more attention. They are game-like and fun, and this contributes to making training all the more effective. Gamification is by now an established concept within the medical community:
“Many serious scientists have convincingly argued that video games not only have acquired an undeserved reputation, but they are actually potent and effective tools for science education” (The Gamification of Medical Training, see also the paper Gamification as a tool for enhancing graduate medical education).
In addition, 3D virtual environments are increasingly used not just for medical education, but they are becoming extremely common as halls for conferences (especially in the form of hybrid events), as virtual branches, and in general as VR hubs that can bring together coworkers and customers without the obstacles of the physical world.
In this regard, Dr. Bertalan Meskó points out that: “Virtual environments have been used in cases when geographical limitations did not make real world meetings possible; when cost effective forms of communication or collaboration are needed or conferences have to be recorded, accessible online and archived. The combination of a community, learning materials, simulations and methods for communication can add up as a virtual environment. Virtual reality (VR) is a term applying to computer-simulated environments that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world, as well as in imaginary worlds. Moreover, the number of virtual worlds has been increasing for the past few years”.
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