Posted by Erin Zimmerman on Jan 29, 2020 10:20:48 AM

For companies launching new medical devices, the challenge is how to bring the commercial team and healthcare practitioners up to speed on unique product features. With a plethora of tools available, from e-learning to cadaver labs, where should high-fidelity virtual-reality simulation be used?

The short answer is: everywhere. From demonstrating your product at conferences to training sales partners and physicians, high-fidelity virtual reality simulation is a fast and cost-effective way to get your product selling and set up for success.

High-fidelity virtual reality simulation isn't just an alternative to more traditional simulation, it's better.

Seeing is Believing

Medical device companies push the boundaries of technological development and medical science. This means when a new device is launched it is up to the manufacturer, and specifically the salesperson, to clearly and quickly explain how and why the new device is better than the alternatives. The best way to do this is a ‘live’ demonstration, and a high-fidelity VR simulator gets you as close to the clinical environment as possible.  

Customized high-fidelity VR simulators are eye-catching, attracting health care practitioners to your booth. You experience longer and more productive visits because physicians can immediately get hands-on, giving you more opportunities for engagement. More physicians are willing to try that first case, because they will build up a realistic understanding of what the procedure entails. 

Set up is also fast, easy, and clean. A valuable characteristic when simulators are in constant demand:

For two years now, we have been using VirtaMed systems in urology but also in gynecology, especially for congresses, workshops, courses, in Germany and internationally. All participants and our own team show growing enthusiasm because of the very easy and fast setup and because of the clean working space.

- Stefan Gille, Head of Product Marketing for Urology, Richard Wolf GmbH

Better training equals higher device adoption and improved clinical results

Thorough physician training is essential to instill confidence with new devices and make sure that your device is being used to its best effect. Training in how to develop manual skills, improve understanding of the procedure, and develop the ability to overcome complications is one of the main factors for healthcare practitioners when choosing to adopt a new procedure.

High-fidelity VR simulation enables healthcare practitioners can practice until they (and you) know that they are proficient and ready to transition into a clinical setting. Many companies with high-fidelity VR simulators now use the technology to objectively test physicians on their ability to perform new procedures and with new instruments.

One example is the introduction of the Rezūm™ Water Vapor Therapy device, for which VirtaMed developed a high-fidelity virtual-reality simulator in 2015. Based on the procedure videos from 197 different patients in the Rezūm II pivotal study, five very representative procedures were developed. The simulator scored how effectively the physicians performed the procedure, and in training a physician must score 85 percent or higher on each of the five cases before going on and performing their initial patient case(s).

This proficiency-based approach to training is catching on, both in the medical technology field as well as in general physician training. According to a study conducted by the Arthroscopy Association of North America, combining simulation with step-by-step learning targets brings substantially better results than traditional education or training on a simulator without objectively set, quantitative benchmarks. 

High-fidelity VR simulations can be developed for your specific device and to follow your recommended procedure steps as per the Instructions For Use (IFU). They can also be developed to train for specific pathologies and complications, which empowers a physician to choose your device for even the most challenging patient cases. 

When introducing revolutionary devices and procedures, some medical device companies have found benefits in delivering simulation training to a much broader range of related healthcare professionals, from the full OR team to those involved in recovery and rehabilitation. This method is used to increase overall understanding of the benefits and risks involved.

Reduce training costs

Having a high-fidelity VR simulator will reduce the costs of delivering training programs, and the costs of marketing and selling. Some of these are recognized as ongoing costs, including running cadaver labs, and others are more implicit, such as the time spent waiting for the right patient scheduled in the OR for your procedure.

High fidelity virtual reality simulators are available on demand, so you can deliver the experience of using your device in an office or classroom setting. You can train more quickly as the simulator is always ready to go and reduces the reliance on a proctor for individual feedback.

Simulation training is also repeatable. It does not matter whether a physician needs 2, 20, or 200 procedures to reach proficiency, there are no additional costs involved. Professor Luca Carmignani, Head of Urology IRCCS Policlinico San Donato, Milan, noted that 

"Virtual reality simulators are definitely the future of medical education. Surgeons can repeat the procedure to infinity. So far, the problem was to reproduce a simulation close to reality: The VirtaMed solution has closed this gap."

Developing simulators does require an initial investment, but this is significantly less than the costs of developing your new device. Development can start prior to device approval, and the simulator can even be used for training the physicians that will use your new device for pre-market clinical trials.

Sales training

Train your field sales and distributors efficiently with the use of a high-fidelity VR simulator. Simulators are transportable and can be used at conferences, seminars, workshops, as well as for 1-1 training sessions.  

Just as with physicians, sales staff can use the simulator as often as needed until they are comfortable with the new device.  A salesperson that is more confident with a new device or procedure, and familiar with how the device is trained, is more persuasive to potential customers than a salesperson speaking only to a hand-out or other form of simulation.  

It’s natural that your field sales team and clinical specialists will change during the lifetime of a medical device. A high-fidelity VR simulator ensures that the same training content is delivered to the same standard, and on-demand training reduces the on-boarding time of your new team members.

Why VirtaMed?

VirtaMed has years of experience in developing custom high-fidelity virtual-reality simulators, and we have worked with some of the largest medical technology companies in the world. In fact, we have just announced a collaboration with Smith + Nephew to develop a custom simulator. Regardless of size, each company gets the individual attention that they deserve. 

“We loved working with VirtaMed! They are obviously a very competent and highly skilled team, and they were very responsive when we made suggestions or asked for certain functions and features. There were times when we asked for things that were a little outside of what they had done, and, kudos to the team, they would go away, think about it, and within a couple of days to a week come back to us with a solution.”

- Amanda Heys, Senior Manager Professional Education &Training, NxThera

VirtaMed’s experience, coupled with the option of using an established technology and software platform, means that VirtaMed can shorten development time and lessen the resources needed to translate new procedures into high-fidelity virtual reality.