The potential of extended reality (XR) in healthcare education

Read the blog from John Grumitt on our latest paper on the potential on offer from extended reality when applied to healthcare education.

26th March 2024 about a 3 minute read

Professor Chris Witty’s 2023 annual report provided plenty of evidence to substantiate the stress our aging population and unhealthy lifestyles are having on the health and care systems. Perhaps even more striking, last year the Health Foundation’s survey told us that only 1/3 of the population agree that the NHS is providing a good service.

Meanwhile, we’ve seen the introduction of ICSs in England and in the four years to March 2023, 20% more nurses and 19% more doctors employed. Yet productivity has not improved. In January, 6.3m were waiting for treatment, up from 4.3m prior to the pandemic, with the median waiting time now at 15 weeks up from 8.4 weeks, a backlog the BMA say will take years to clear.

In view of this backdrop, the independent charity, Future Care Capital (FCC), recently published a white paper on the potential offered by extended reality (XR) when applied to healthcare education and the barriers to its scaled adoption.

We reviewed the evidence and spoke with key opinion leaders in this country and around the world to gather their perspectives and found that while the untapped potential is great, much of the progress has been incremental.

At FCC, we have supported the development and implementation of innovation across a range of health and care domains right across the UK. From what we have seen, the application of XR to healthcare education could generate capacity, improve both healthcare professional and service user satisfaction and clinical outcomes.  There is a huge amount on offer if we create the right environment to allow the potential to be realised. Over recent years, the technology has improved making it far easier to rapidly design new educational material. As ever, the cost of the kit is falling as take up, especially beyond health, increases. While there remain countless IT systems in use within and across providers, interoperability is becoming more common. In England, ICSs are showing signs of greater systemwide approaches but there’s no doubt that much potential remains, which we expect to illustrate in our forthcoming paper on the potential offered by the use of integrated data sets to design better care and deliver it more effectively.

In a work environment where recourses are heavily constrained and look likely to remain so, it appears people are often too busy to innovate, preoccupied with the immediate demands facing them. If  “necessity is the mother of invention” we have to enable it to be developed and exploited. And if we want to create traction, let’s focus on the more readily addressed opportunities to build momentum and demonstrate the potential for scaled impact. We’ve come across numerous hubs where various products are being developed, tried and tested, right across the UK, although not yet at scale. With well targeted support and robust evidence, the system could achieve more, critically for those in need of care as well as those working to deliver it.

As an independent charity, FCC is aiming to play a role, bringing stakeholders together to help accelerate this development to enable value to be created for all, especially and most importantly, for those in need of care and support. We welcome collaborative opportunities to create positive impact.