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MEdSim Magazine Covers Virtual Heroes’ Collaboration with Duke University

December 2012

Although simulation technology has become a leading tool for the advancement of medical education and training, gaming technology has still not gained an equal level of acceptance with medical educators. Most medical colleges and teaching hospitals have focused on the use of human patient simulators, or mannequins as their primary initial teaching tool.

That may change once the results are in concerning the training effectiveness of the gaming technology-based Immersive Learning Environments at Duke (ILE@D) being developed at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. The gaming platform for this web-based and avatar-driven medical education system is provided by the HumanSim® platform developed by Virtual Heroes. ARA is the parent company for both HumanSim and Virtual Heroes.

The ARA team works closely with Duke University medical center physicians and other medical specialists as subject matter experts (SMEs) for learning content and virtual patient development.

“The idea of ILE@D is also to have a professional virtual environment where physicians and nurses learn together in a shared common space,” said Jeff Taekman, M.D., Director of the Duke Human Simulator and Patient Safety Center.

ILE@D is a cross-collaborative, multidisciplinary platform where Duke medical faculty members can interact and communicate with their students while sharing resources with both students and other faculty members. Individual students and teams of students will be presented with various virtual patient case scenarios in which they must diagnose patients, communicate with team members and perform proper medical procedures through their avatars.

Jerry Heneghan, Director of HumanSim Product Development at ARA, describes the process as similar to commercial and military aviation pilot training, where the student first takes online familiarization courses and then practices on schoolhouse trainers before being exposed to full-motion simulator training. Heneghan has encouraged Duke to take this crawl-walk-run approach to medical training.

The real key to the success of the ILE@D program, however, will be the accuracy of the virtual patient models being built by biomedical engineers at ARA. Duke medical SME’s are providing data to establish the technical parameters for virtual patient physiological characteristics and symptoms. These models are crucial not only for ILE&D, but for the future intended commercialization of the learning modules that ARA hopes to offer through commercial agreements with Duke to the medical education community.