Interview with Osso VR: Discussing virtual reality & physician training


Virtual and augmented reality isn’t solely suited to the videogame industry. In fact the technology has been steadily making its way across the healthcare industry to provide a whole host of both patient and provider benefits. Osso VR is one such company using VR to give physicians the chance to gain “hands on” experience performing procedures involving medical devices.

I spoke to co-founder and CEO of Osso VR to find out more about the company’s involvement with VR.

Tell me a little bit about Osso VR.

Osso VR delivers realistic, hands on medical device training through its best-in-class Virtual Reality Education Platform. Our driving goal is to optimise patient outcomes by reducing the learning curve associated with adopting the very latest in effective medical technology. The Osso VR team is an incredibly talented mix of practicing clinicians, professional VR developers, and medical device industry veterans. We have been selected by the US Department of Education as one of five leading simulation companies in the country, and we are a MedTech Innovator top 20 company. Osso VR has been showcased at the most prestigious health technology conferences, including CES’s Digital Health Summit, Health 2.0, Exponential Medicine, and several others.

How have users responded to Osso VR?

User response to Osso VR has been universally enthusiastic. Some of our favourite quotes are:

“This can augment and perhaps substitute for our cadaver labs and sawbones” – Senior Arthroplasty Surgeon

“This is a game changer.” – Sales Rep

“Most exciting thing I’ve ever seen at the company” – Med Device VP

In particular, users remark how intuitive and immersive our training modules are. Our users have been so blown away by the high-fidelity realism of the virtual space, many times we see them place the physical, hand-held haptic controllers on a virtual table, only to have them drop straight to the ground in their physical environment since that table doesn’t actually exist.

As VR technology develops and prices drop, do you think we’ll see it start to garner more attention in areas other than gaming?

Actually, the reverse has turned out to be true. Consumer interest in VR has been much lower than initially expected, and much of the industry’s attention has turned to the enterprise space for development of the “killer app” in VR. Companies like IrisVR, ScopeAR, and others have been seeing incredible growth for their enterprise solutions, and the attention that Osso VR has seen in the medical device industry certainly reflects a trend that we in the industry believe is very likely to continue.

Can VR be used to reduce the time and money spent on training surgeons? 

The simple answer to this question is yes. Simulations have been a valid method of training in medicine and other industries for decades.  The more detailed answer gets a little more complicated when we calculate the ROE (return on education) that the small upfront cost in VR training has when the vast implications for downstream costs related to optimal patient care are considered. For example, in my field of orthopaedics, anterior total hip replacement is a relatively new and popular procedure. The learning curve, however, is quite long (50-100 cases). Especially in the early days, for those first 10-20 cases, the average revision rate is triple that of “proficient” surgeons.  In these revision cases, patients must have their original implant removed and replaced in an additional surgery. This added surgical procedure saddles the healthcare system with an enormous financial burden, and more importantly, opens up the patient to further risk and harm. The goal of surgical simulation is to compress the learning curve, and give on-demand access to realistic learning environments so those first few cases are safer and more cost-effective.

What hardware are you using to offer users a hands-on experience?

We are hardware agnostic and will work with any VR system that provides hand-tracking. Right now, the two most popular platforms we recommend are Oculus Rift/Touch and HTC Vive. There is also some exciting glove and haptic technology we have exclusive access to that we will be rolling out to select partners in the future.

What are the benefits that Osso VR offers?

Osso VR solves three major problems:

Today’s busy surgeons do not have the time to take out of their practice and family life to learn how to use cutting edge medical devices – so they continue doing what they feel most comfortable doing.

  • With Osso VR, providers will be able to rapidly achieve proficiency with newer medical technology and regain the autonomy to decide what devices will provide the best value for their patients rather than have the devices that they use be dictated by their schedules and availability.

Patients are starting to experience increasing complication rates with newer medical technology.

  • Osso VR provides a way to rapidly achieve proficiency with new medical device systems. In this way patients will be exposed to less risk and more value from newer medical technology.

Device companies spend a massive amount of money on training their surgeons and sales force yet the ROE of this expenditure is either not measured, or just accepted something that will always be low.

  • Osso VR provides value to device companies by decreasing the cost of training, while at the same time providing a more convenient, repeatable, on-demand option that will increase the return on training dollars spent.

What were the biggest challenges in developing a VR platform for training surgeons on emerging medical devices?

The biggest challenge by far is getting the “feel” of the procedures to be as true to life as possible while also maintaining an intuitive and user-friendly experience. We spend a huge amount of time collecting formal feedback from surgeons of all skill levels to ensure we are developing a product that is both effective and a best-in-class experience that our users love. One of the ways we are proving effectiveness is scientifically through a IRB-approved validation study at UCLA.

Another challenge when working in VR is that it is hard to convey through videos and screenshots exactly how immersive and realistic our Virtual Reality Education Platform is. The only (and best) way to really know is to try it for yourself! We see that even the most skeptical of users are blown away once they put on the headset and are introduced to a rich, and highly interactive virtual operating experience.

What’s stopping surgeons to train with medical devices for surgery without VR?

Nothing is stopping them from training without VR and this is currently the gold standard. However it is enormously expensive. A 1-2 day training event can cost upwards of $300,000. These traditional trainings also carry a small level of risk for the practitioners as they are often exposing themselves to sharp instruments, cadaver-based bodily fluids and radiation from portable x-rays and fluoroscopy units. Furthermore, there is the glaring issue of a time gap and lack of repeatability. After attending a traditional medical device training course, the average gap before putting the device into practice is four to six months. Sometimes longer depending on the procedure. Furthermore, there is no opportunity to reinforce training during that period. So, in effect, you are studying for a test at one point in time, and then taking that test six months later – except, instead missing a few questions on a test, you are working on a patient that is entrusting you with their care.

The Osso website states you’re planning to expand into other specialty areas and procedures. Could you tell a bit more about this?

 Procedures involving complex medical devices such as robotics, navigation, and patient specific implants are becoming more and more routine. Other device dominated specialties include vascular surgery, interventional cardiology, interventional radiology, ENT, neurosurgery, urology, gynecology, general surgery and more. These are all areas that would benefit greatly from our platform.

How do you see VR or even AR being used within healthcare in the future?

 I think a better question is where won’t it be used! Haha, but in all seriousness, we’ve put much thought into what the future holds for VR and AR. Rather than give an entire article’s worth of an answer on that question, I’d recommend your readers check out this article where I’ve shared some of these thoughts.

This is an incredibly exciting time where we have the opportunity to completely transform healthcare delivery to improve the lives of patients and practitioners. It requires us as physicians, hospital administrators, industry experts and most importantly patients to be open minded and support innovation and validation of these revolutionary technologies.


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