Meet Virti, the company founded by trauma and orthopaedic surgeon Dr Alexander Young that’s using XR, AI and gamification to help medical and other professionals learn faster and remember training for longer
VRWT: What’s Virti’s background?
Dr Alexander Young: Virti is a two-year-old digital training company with offices in Bristol in the UK and Los Angeles and Houston in the US. Our goal is to scale in-person training to improve human performance using cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) and XR technology.
Virti’s initial focus is on the healthcare education market and was founded by myself, a trauma and orthopaedic surgeon with a degree in education. I, like many health professionals, felt that existing training methods lacked the emotion and stress of real clinical practice, leaving clinicians under-prepared when entering a clinical environment and putting patients at risk of medical error. The first time my own clinical decision-making skills were truly tested under pressure was the first time I encountered an acutely unwell patient.
Virti’s cloud-based platform is accessed by employees on mobile, desktop and virtual and AR headsets with a focus on data science analysis of training data that can be uniquely captured across these mediums. Content is broad, spanning mental health training to surgical procedures, with a focus on infrequent, high-risk clinical events together with soft-skills training for health professionals at all stages. Virti is more problem-focused than fixed to a specific medical specialty or type of technology, with emphasis on capturing unique data insights that would be otherwise impossible with traditional training such as decision making under pressure and team communication.
VRWT: How receptive is the healthcare industry to immersive technology for training?
Dr Alexander Young: A study published in The BMJ cites medical error as being the third leading cause of death in the US and costing health providers upwards of $20 billion in payouts, and evidence suggests that poor communication can be attributed as the cause of most patient complaints, hence Virti’s focus on soft-skills training. Remote, immersive training in healthcare has been at the forefront of organisations’ needs this year, especially.
Our AI and XR training tools were utilised by healthcare providers internationally during the Covid-19 pandemic, as we were able to produce simulations that trained UK National Health Service (NHS) staff in key skills such as donning and doffing personal protective equipment, or how to use ventilators. Many healthcare workers returned from retirement or were redeployed to respiratory departments and needed to be quickly up-skilled to keep patients safe and prevent cross-infection.
This has meant that as organisations and institutions look to explore socially distanced ways of learning throughout the pandemic, we’ve been ideally placed to offer a remote learning solution that really works.
The Covid-19 pandemic emphasised the importance of being able to quickly up-skill the workforce remotely. With face-to-face training near impossible for many organisations, it has been a great opportunity for technology to provide a safe and accessible solution that can prepare employees for new ways of working and keep patients safe.
We’ve benefited from having our roots firmly placed in the medical sector. I trained as a trauma and orthopaedic surgeon and am a NHS Innovation Accelerator fellow, and Virti is the only education company to be part of the NHS’s national innovation programme.
VRWT: How important were non-VR options to healthcare clients?
Dr Alexander Young: Virti is an end-to-end training solution for organisations and, in addition to VR and AR headset delivery, we also provide blended learning through desktop and mobile devices. This has been important for organisations as they integrate new training methodologies into their existing training workflows and learning management systems.
In addition to CGI VR/AR training, Virti uses technologies such as computer vision to analyse the actual content added to the platform in both 2D video and 360° video formats, so that unique insights can be derived from real-world capture, which can help organisation to quickly optimise efficiencies and understand subtle areas for improvement in both training and real world environments.
VRWT: Do we need to strive for that broad access?
Dr Alexander Young: Scalability is key and this has been highlighted during Covid-19 where employees need fast updates delivered across different mediums and channels to ensure they are up to date with frequently changing guidelines, such as those pertaining to personal protective equipment, which were sometimes changing on a daily basis.
Broad access can be achieved both by cross-platform scalability such as providing equally good experiences on mobile and desktop, as well as ensuring that headsets are deployed in a way that enables training to be scaled and helps organisations to reduce in-person training time as well as improving effectiveness and overall efficiency.
VRWT: How does your platform improve on the traditional training experience?
Dr Alexander Young: One of the goals at Virti is to take traditionally subjective data from important skills such as communication, teamwork, and decision making under pressure, and make them objective, quantifiable and validated to provide organisations with better insights on how prepared their workforce really is, while making on-the-job training more equitable to access and more scalable.
In healthcare in particular, on-the-job training can be serendipitous depending on the department, hospital or region a resident or trainee is working in. There is variation in training methods as well as actual techniques used by trainers. We’re providing the tools to more conveniently and fairly access training and the data insights to then standardise learning and translate this into clinical practise with the goal to improve human performance, and therefore patient safety.
As a team of healthcare professionals, it is vital for us to know that the platform is validated and delivers real-world translatable impact for our partners. To that effect, we have published studies demonstrating effectiveness and in some cases have seen in-person training time reduced by upwards of 50% and knowledge retention improved by more than 200%. One of our favourite metrics is that users show a significantly reduced level of stress and anxiety when using our platform compared to traditional training methods for hazardous, infrequent events, and also report greater empathy for soft-skills training.
VRWT: What do you offer to help your clients get the most out of your platform?
Dr Alexander Young: We have a very strong customer success team who focus on understanding customer needs and working collaboratively to deliver return on investment and help solve important problems for organisations.
In addition to our amazing success team, we also use our own digital tools to onboard clients and have a certification programme such that anyone using the platform can become as proficient as quickly as possible.
The cloud-based dashboard also enables our clients to transparently see usage data and employee improvement over time and to analyse both content and modules to help them to double down on what is most important for their employees and user base.
For anyone at the exploratory stage, we have a number of ebooks and whitepapers to help them understand how implementation is best handled and our team of learning and development experts are on hand to help anyone at any stage of the decision process to be as well informed as possible.
VRWT: What do you have in store for 2020?
Dr Alexander Young: It has already been an exciting year for us as we have rallied to help existing and new customers meet their remote, scalable training needs during Covid-19. Virti was featured on the Nasdaq Tower in Time Square for our work helping frontline healthcare workers during the pandemic. We were also announced as winners of the NHS’s COVID-19 challenge for research conducted that showed that health and social care professionals’ knowledge retention of personal protective equipment and infection guidelines was increased 230% when using our AI and XR training technology.
We were also featured in the UK Department for International Trade COVID-19 campaign and the government’s GREAT Britain Inspirations Campaign.
As a remote training business, we have seen an influx of new customers across Europe, the Middle East and Africa and the US in 2020, and have been working with device manufacturers, pharma and corporates outside of healthcare to help up-skill workforces remotely.
We are seeing a continued up-tick in enterprise customers both from within healthcare and outside with remote training and virtual events being the new normal for the foreseeable future.
We are bringing several new products to market to help our customers with their remote training and conferencing needs. We will also be expanding our team to meet demand and will be opening new offices on the US East Coast in addition to those in Houston, Los Angeles and Bristol. Despite being a two-year-old company, we are nearing profitability and will be taking on further investment later this year to quickly expand and accelerate our growth.
VRWT: How can interested parties get in touch?
Dr Alexander Young: Visit www.virti.com, where you can find lots of resources and educational materials on how to implement immersive training into your organisation. We can also be reached on Twitter via @virtimed, and we also host The Human Performance Podcast, which celebrates amazing human performance and helps organisations learn how to improve the performance of their workforce and people.
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Main image: Dr Alexander Young, founder of Virti