Prior to Covid, the US already faced a physician shortage. A 2019 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects a shortfall of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians by the year 2033. In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects we will need more than 1.1 million nurses by the year 2022 to avoid a nursing shortage. As more and more physicians and nurses face burn out, reach retirement age or just opt out, the question to answer is how we can overcome this shortage and train healthcare professionals faster and more effectively to fill the gap.
Technology can play a significant role in creating efficiencies in medical training. Extended reality (XR), such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), provide medical students with a realistic yet fail-safe approach to training via simulation-based exercises. According to Forbes, XR is expected to grow to a more than $200B market in the next four years.
Axon Park is one of those companies poised to take advantage of this market growth as it provides virtual reality based training to more effectively and efficiently deliver medical training. To better understand this market and its value, I spent time with the Founder and CEO of Axon Park, Taylor Freeman.
Taylor Freeman is no stranger to the power of XR. He has been in XR since May 2014 and is fully focused on immersive technology and AI as it relates to learning and human performance enhancement. He taught the first in-VR class at MIT, has worked with companies like Google, IDEO, and NASA JPL on VR training and was awarded Forbes 30 under 30 for his work building UploadVR.com, the XR industry’s largest news and media platform.
When Facebook bought Oculus in 2014, Taylor tried VR for the first time at an event and had an AHH HA moment. He quickly recognized the power of the technology and passion was solidified. He started with UploadVR.com and then pivoted to building Axon Park when he saw the amazing benefits of VR firsthand while teaching students at MIT.
The goal of Axon Park is to create a virtual campus to teach compliance driven skills in an effort to help others find success in their career and their life. The company started with medical training as it is a good fit for VR because it is offers highly critical training with a lot of variables and is physically based as well as resource intensive. The first training course available is PPE donning and doffing.
How did you decide on PPE VR Training as the first focus area?
We were working on a hemorrhage control simulation and the main doctor we were working with had to pause the project due to Covid. When I asked what would help most, he instantly said PPE training given how many people were performing it incorrectly and how it required extra staff to be observers whose core job was just to make sure people were doing it right.
What is the efficacy of PPE VR Training?
VR training is incredibly effective for assessment purposes. Given the current state of the technology, it can’t get exact haptic feedback and therefore is not yet ready to replace real world training. VR training will take you to approximately 80% competency. It gives you the ability to fully understand the sequence, build muscle memory around that sequence and make a quick transition to the final step in the real world. VR hardwires the sequence using a simulator which helps reduce mistakes in real world scenarios.
How have medical staff and clinicians embraced this type of training?
Axon Park realized early on that clinicians may not be familiar with VR and may feel less at ease with this type of training. To combat this, they offer a turnkey onboarding experience to get clinicians more comfortable with VR, the headset and how to get the benefit of the experience. In addition, Axon Park focuses on simplifying the user experience to ensure the training is easily adopted and users are successful. We have a number of case studies of physicians and nurses ranging from their 20s to 70s who all successfully use the program unassisted.
What are the benefits to the hospitals for utilizing VR training?
I wrote an article outlining the cost savings associated with medical VR training. I give an example of how the cost savings might break down and in the example used, one VR headset ends up being 23x less expensive than in-person training, saving more than $108K over three years, before the cost of the VR software licenses. Some of our clients have tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of employees who need to be trained on these skills. For a group with 50K staff this would be a $1.25 million annual savings.
In addition, VR is an excellent way to support an organization’s compliance effort as it offers accurate data and can be utilized to determine completed training, competency levels and areas for improvement.
How do hospitals integrate your program into the workflow?
Our VR training becomes another tool in the hospital’s toolkit to support and empower the staff. The hospital buys headsets, purchases seat licenses for the training software and gives the clinicians the ability to check out the headset, sign in and go through the training as many times as they would like.
Where do you see Medical VR Training and Axon Park in the future – what’s next?
Axon Park is fully focused on the medical training space as it fits so well into the compliance driven skills arena. It is also a highly necessary area with many more courses that can drive value to the healthcare industry.
After that, Axon Park will continue to deliver on their virtual campus by offering courses in other compliance driven markets. In addition, the social aspects of the virtual campus will allow students to meet and interact to build a learning community.
In my conversation with Taylor, I quickly learned this is a more than a business for him, it’s a mission. His ultimate goal with Axon Park is to offer baseline courses in the Axon Park virtual campus free to aspiring professionals.
Given his passion as well as his experience, Taylor and his company, Axon Park, has a tremendous ability to completely change the way medical professionals are trained and deployed to shorten the gap.