Learn how the digital studio, Immersion worked with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to quickly create and deploy an interactive training experience for healthcare workers fighting COVID-19 on the frontlines.
Every day, doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel risk their lives caring for COVID-19 patients. Occupational exposure to this infectious pathogen can put workers in harm’s way: In some countries, 1 in 10 healthcare workers are infected with this new virus.
Because COVID-19 is primarily spread from person to person, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is critical to staff and patient safety. Even a seemingly innocuous oversight like leaving a gown’s neck closure unfastened can carry severe consequences. (PPE shortages have also created a host of additional challenges for healthcare providers.)
With such high stakes, effective training is key to ensuring medical staff follow PPE procedures and reduce the risk of infection. Yet a recent study revealed that only 63% of U.S. nurses say they have been trained on safely donning (i.e., putting on) and doffing (i.e., removing) PPE in the previous year.
A lack of training can contribute to human error, which can have devastating effects: A 2017 study found that healthcare personnel contaminated themselves removing full-body PPE in 66% of simulated instances. To promote greater safety among patients and personnel, U.S. healthcare officials identified a pressing need to create experiential training to complement existing resources.
Creating an interactive safety training experience on a condensed timeline
Headquartered in Warsaw, Poland, Immersion is a digital development studio that specializes in AR and VR experiences for enterprise and entertainment clients. Looking for ways to contribute to the fight against COVID-19, it jumped when an opportunity arose with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Employee Education System (EES). The resulting WebGL application provides an interactive, 12-step walkthrough for donning and doffing PPE.
It is featured on the VA website as a key resource for clinical crisis skills training for intensive care units (ICUs). The app has been shared with thousands of U.S. healthcare providers and workers and is particularly useful for servicemembers newly deployed to the pandemic frontlines.
“Personal protective equipment is healthcare workers’ main – if not only – line of defense,” said Immersion CEO Piotr Baczynski. “We believe that interactive, gamified training is an effective and accessible way to learn the most important elements of COVID-19 PPE safety procedures.”
A need for speed
Given the current demands on the U.S. healthcare system, Immersion moved quickly to create the application. Consulting with experts at the VA, Immersion assembled a 16-person team – comprising developers, 3D modelers, animators and UI designers – and completed the majority of the project within just four days.
The app covers 12 total interactive steps, including jewelry removal, handwashing, and donning and doffing two pairs of gloves, a gown, N95 respirator, and face shield. Live-action videos are also embedded into the experience to complement the animations.
Unity’s real-time 3D development platform made it easy for the Immersion team to iterate rapidly and implement the VA and VHA EES’s feedback quickly during the approval process. Although the Immersion team specializes in AR/VR experiences, they were able to easily expand their skill set leveraging Unity’s broad platform support. They used Unity’s highly optimized WebGL build option to create a browser-based experience that would be easily accessible to the U.S. healthcare community.
More to come
Immersion plans to add more training scenarios to the current experience and also deploy iOS and Android applications. Since local networks at hospitals are often heavily protected by firewalls, limiting access to web experiences, a mobile app will give more healthcare workers a way to participate in the training. Immersion is also looking into bringing the app to other countries.
Learn more about how we’re providing support to our community on the COVID-19 resource page.