Israeli virtual reality companies aim to fill in the gaps in American healthcare challenges

As the world suffers from a shortage of registered nurses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Israeli startups are developing new ways Virtual Reality Products intended to help both nurses and patients, mainly in the US market.

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According to the World Health Organization, before the pandemic began in 2020, there was already a global shortage of nearly 6 million nurses. The pandemic has exacerbated the situation, and the global shortage is expected to reach 13 million by 2030 unless drastic action is taken.

In the United States, it is estimated that more than one million new nurses will be needed by 2030.

“We are in one of the worst staffing crises we’ve ever seen,” said Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs at Vanderbilt College of Nursing Mary A. Jesse, for The Media Line. “All the challenges brought about by the global pandemic have devastated the emotional and mental health of many nurses, leading many to leave the profession.”

What Israeli startups are helping American healthcare systems with virtual reality?

An Israeli startup has developed a product that aims to help with this Nurse training in the United States faster and more efficiently.

A woman testing a GaitBetter simulation. (Credit: courtesy GaitBetter)

InceptionXR, a virtual reality company founded in 2016 and headquartered in Tel Aviv, is used to develop educational simulations for children. However, she is now focusing on one issue that hospital nurses face every day: preventing nosocomial infections. The US Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1.7 million people are infected and about 100,000 die from infections picked up in the hospital each year in the United States. Although nurses are trained in how to avoid spreading such infections, it can be difficult to master.

“The coronavirus has made it clear how important it is to avoid infection,” Ariel Geva, vice president of sales and business development for InceptionXR, told The Media Line. “Our goal and our partners” [aim] The goal is to reduce the number of infections while training nurses on how to act in a room with a patient.

During training, nurses are taught how to avoid spreading pathogens through various techniques, including regular hand washing and wearing masks, gowns, and gloves.

“We approach patient care as if any blood or body fluids might be contaminated,” Jesse said. “This is the critical foundation of nursing practice. Understanding and being able to apply what we call the principles of infection control is one of the first things a nursing student learns. This hands-on training is an essential part of nursing education because nursing is a practice. We have to understand that our students do not know what they should Not only do they, but they can also prove their proficiency in those skills.

When Vanderbilt University trains its students, it uses materials that mimic pathogens and can be tracked with black lights, to show students any spots they may have missed or accidentally contaminated.

But setting up such training can take a long time.

InceptionXR, in collaboration with Emory University, has developed a virtual reality simulation to train nurses to avoid such infections. In the virtual reality training, nurses wear a headset that places them in a virtual hospital room, where they perform nursing tasks such as inserting an IV into a patient. As the nurse completes tasks, the simulation keeps track of which surfaces were touched and whether the nurse remembered to disinfect them. At the end of the simulation, the result is presented to the nurse and shows which areas still contain contaminants.

“Nurses work hard, [but] They have very limited time to do any activities and they are likely to make many mistakes during this time. “Bringing them into a simulation that makes them think about infection … will make them think about it when they go into the room to treat patients,” said Geva.

InceptionXR believes that VR training is faster and easier to set up than physical training rooms, and therefore can train more nurses in a shorter timeframe.

“What we’re doing is scaling virtual reality as there are millions of nurses out there. Our focus is using virtual reality to transform the behaviors of a very broad and dispersed workforce,” Andrew Mendoza, co-founder of InceptionXR, told The Media Line.

Another Tel Aviv-based VR startup has its sights set on a different side of the American healthcare system. GaitBetter It was established in 2017 with a grant from the Israel Innovation Authority’s incubation program, which provides funding to help develop commercial products. Its focus is on preventive care, specifically the prevention of falls in the elderly.

GaitBetter’s VR includes a large screen that is attached to the treadmill. The patient, who is attached to a treadmill, walks virtually through various scenes on the screen, from city streets to dense forests, sometimes having to cross obstacles or change direction. The patient’s foot movements are monitored and displayed.

The company boasts that the system can reduce falls by 50% in the elderly.

“By adding cognitive aspects to a walking exercise, they can significantly improve results and significantly reduce the risk of falls,” Helik Harari, CEO of GaitBetter, told The Media Line.

Virtual reality is being hailed as a useful tool by medical faculty in the United States.

“There is great value to AI and virtual types of simulation activities for nursing students and all other health professions students,” said Jesse. “We know that multiple opportunities to practice over time create expertise, and getting appropriate feedback to understand when you’re doing something right and when you need to adjust is essential to developing expertise.”

However, the two Israeli companies said it remains difficult to break into the US healthcare market.

“The health care system in the United States is very complex and very challenging in many aspects,” Harari said. “Unfortunately, the health care system in the United States is not ready or adequate for preventive care.”

The sheer size of the US is also a problem, InceptionXR said.

“In Israel, everyone knows everyone. It is very easy to reach people. “I can cover the country in less than a day,” said Geva. “Just the huge distance between the hospitals [in the US] It is very difficult.”

Despite this, the two Israeli companies see the United States as a major destination for their products.

“We are naturally trying to target the American market, because the Israeli market is too small for the company to raise money or be attractive enough,” Geva said.

“It was only natural for us to start in the United States when we separated from Israel,” Harari said. But we are exploring other countries where the health care system promotes preventive care more than the United States.

Some major US companies are also playing a role in promoting the new virtual reality technology. Meta, formerly known as Facebook, invests heavily in virtual reality startups in the United States and around the world. And in June, Apple entered the virtual reality market with the announcement of the Apple Vision Pro.

“The headphones from Apple are going to be a game changer,” Mendoza said. “I think it’s very exciting to have big players like Apple behind it, as well as the folks at Facebook where Zuckerberg has been so committed to this avenue.”

“When Apple launches a new product in the market, they usually end up changing the market,” said Geva.

“The idea of ​​big companies promoting this technology field, they feed the ecosystem with developers, technology, cameras and virtual reality technology,” Harari said. “And then companies and innovators like us can take advantage of that in order to deliver specific solutions to specific vulnerabilities.”

For educators, the expanding world of virtual reality presents exciting new opportunities to train the next generation of nursing students.

“In order to make nursing programs more accessible to students, we need to have opportunities like this where they can do some of their practice at home at their convenience,” Jessie said. “[VR] It really opens up the possibility for individuals to learn and become nurses in a way that fits their life schedule.

Meanwhile, uncertainty about where these technologies might end up is causing some caution in academia.

“Using technology just for technology’s sake is not always effective,” Jesse said. “We are really keen on assessing the usefulness of a particular project or product and how it can benefit most from it detrimental to the cognitive load and coaching capacity of these students. … [But] When you have the right technology, the right reflexes, and the right amount of practice, you can really achieve great things with technology.

Patrick Doyle is a recent graduate of San Diego State University and an intern in Media Line’s Journalism and Politics Student Program.

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