MEDICAL TRAINING: U. of Michigan Pioneering a Virtual ER
University of Michigan researchers are forging new territory in medical education with a combined virtual reality and concrete experience tool that simulates a patient's visit to the emergency room, the Ann Arbor News reports. "We are charting completely new ground," said Dag von Lubitz, the project's leader and director of the UM Health System emergency medicine research labs, which unveiled the Medical Readiness Trainer to the public Tuesday. The lab features a life-size human "patient" made of computers and plastic that responds to treatment as a real patient would, as well as a virtual emergency room, complete with sounds. The virtual room -- cave automatic virtual environment (CAVE) -- consists of large screens on three walls and the floor, which reflect projector-cast images that appear three-dimensional when viewed through goggles. The combination of virtual reality and patient simulation provides the tactile element considered essential to medical training. Researchers have applied for grants, including $14.5 million from the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which would fund the virtual reality CAVE construction at UM for medical training, including a moving floor and, possibly, smells and sounds. Part of the system will be put to test next month aboard a U.S. Coast Guard ship travelling between Virginia and Puerto Rico, on which a team of physicians will treat a patient simulator controlled by UM researchers in Ann Arbor. Although the project is still nascent, Dr. James Freer, a clinical assistant professor of surgery at the medical school, said, "It's mainly a matter of money and time. The capabilities are going to be there" (Morgan, 6/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.