Spotlight: ACLS Virtual Reality Training from Health Scholars

ACLS VR training was designed in partnership with EMS agencies to provide first responders ACLS training

Company Name: Health Scholars
Headquarters: Westminster, CO
Signature Product: ACLS Simulation Training

1. Where did your company name originate from?

Our team was established by individuals who are passionate about medicine, but continually seeking new information, knowledge and experiences to shift the status quo in healthcare and improve well-being. This is a trait shared by our partner, investor and customer community. This constant desire to be better, do better and to know more for the pursuit of positive change is what created Health Scholars.

Our identity “grew” out of this pursuit for knowledge. The idea that each of us continues to grow, flourish, but only with the help of others and the continued nourishment of education and training.

2. What was the inspiration behind starting your company?

Our president, Dr. Brian Gillet, spent 20 years practicing emergency medicine and establishing some of the first simulation centers and programs in New York City. He recognized the need to improve clinical education effectiveness and knew there was a better way to deliver experience-based training.

Health Scholars was established in 2017 as an innovation from OSF healthcare. Health Scholars acquired two organizations: Optera Group and Dr. Gillett's Simcore Technologies. It launched its first commercial VR simulation title in 2018. In 2019, Health Scholars released two additional VR titles for resuscitation training and closed a $17 billion Series B round.

Optera Group was founded by Cole Sandau, who now serves as Health Scholars’ CEO. Optera was a Colorado consulting company using AR/VR technologies to help medical device and pharmaceutical clients simplify complex product messaging and training for clinicians.

Simcore, founded by Brian Gillett, MD, who now serves as Health Scholars’ president and chief medical officer, was also a Colorado-based company. Simcore is a cloud-based clinical simulation management platform that automates a simulation centers planning, delivery and measurement of eLearning and physical simulation modalities. It also provides extensive solutions for learner management. Simcore is now the basis of Health Scholars platform, but has evolved to incorporate VR training, additional data capture and better reporting, as well as insight analysis.

Health Scholars’ mission is to advance healthcare simulation through virtualization, making experience-based training accessible, scalable, affordable and measurable for public health and safety professionals to help reduce medical errors and improve patient safety. ​

3. What is your signature product and how does it work?

Our only product for pre-hospital is ACLS simulation training. However, our resuscitation suite will be expanding this summer to include pediatric emergency care for EMTs and paramedics. Our ACLS VR training is unique because it is all voice-driven, allowing EMS providers to practice communication skills along with hard skills.

Designed in accordance with AHA guidelines, learners play the role of the team lead running an in-home mega code and are provided 13 total scenarios that reflect cardiac and non-cardiac arrest incidents. Learners identify rhythms and direct virtual team members to shock, give medications and/or perform CPR as necessary.

It simulates an in-home scenario with virtual team members and common real-life distractions, such as:

- Trains and validates competencies for all core AHA algorithms.
- Drills proper team management communication skills.
- Drills situational awareness.
- Drills proper hospital notification.

And with Health Scholars’ VR-ready learning platform you can manage, deliver and analyze performance of VR training from a single solution, as well as:

- Assign VR training and set completion dates.
- Track completion status and individual learner performance.
- Utilize visual reports to identify readiness and learning gaps across an entire organization, specific station, or an individual learner.

All of our VR training works with Vive, Rift and Odyssey headsets and will also be compatible with the Quest headset released in summer 2020.

4. Why do you believe your products are essential to the EMS community?

“With average adult survival rates of 26% for in-hospital cardiac arrest and up to 11%[1] for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, continuous improvement to cardiac arrest response and training is an obligation to patients,” Brian Gillett, MD, president of Health Scholars, said. “ACLS is just the first application within a larger resuscitation suite because we believe that designing scalable, self-directed and affordable simulation for first responders was an untapped, yet imperative market to develop. They are on the front lines of patient safety and deserve effective, experience-based training and skills assessment.”

[1] Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2019 Update: A Report from the American Heart Association; Circulation Journal

5. What has been the biggest challenge your company has faced?

Resources and general awareness within the EMS community. Good VR training requires the right mix of people; talent that understands the clinical space and the technology space, as well as the users who will leverage it.

We were very fortunate to be able to utilize grant funding and our ACLS VR training was made possible with the Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program – User Interface grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Partnership and the State of Colorado’s Advanced Industries Accelerator Program.

The grant also provided the opportunity for us to work with local EMS agencies. We had three agencies consult (Arvada Fire and Rescue, Aurora Police Department and Clear Creek EMS) on content and simulation design, and provide feedback on the beta.

“This grant has provided Health Scholars the ability to advance the use of virtualization in public safety. VR has the power to fundamentally improve the way training products are designed and how training is executed in public safety. The possibilities are endless and with NIST’s program and our EMS partners we have been able to bring the first of many VR training simulations to market.” – Cole Sandau, CEO, Health Scholars

6. What makes your company unique?

  • We develop training exclusively for emergency care scenarios. Our VR applications address required training and help providers master life-saving skills to successfully handle adult and pediatric emergency scenarios in pre-hospital, general care, perioperative and obstetrical settings.
  •  Our company was not started by software engineers, but rather clinicians, which means everything we develop is designed for the non-gamer. We optimize our user experiences for providers in the field, not developers or investors.
  • We co-develop all of our VR simulations. Although we have clinical staff and develop to required guidelines, we believe it's imperative that our content and experiences accurately reflect what providers see and do in real-life.
  • We provide useful performance data. Our simulations provide learners an overall performance score, a detailed debrief and a visual report that shows how they performed against identification and management of each rhythm, as well as general communication and decision making

7. What do your customers like best about you and our products?

How immersive and fun the training is. As soon as they get on the headset, we get a reaction and people don't want to get out of it. But more importantly we love hearing from captains and education directors how much time, effort and money VR training could save them. It gives them the ability to scale effective, experience-based training to any number of learners across any number of locations, which is a big deal.

8. What is the most rewarding part of serving the EMS community?

Helping the community that helps us. EMS providers have tough jobs, work long hours and then often spend their days off training. If we can offer a training solution that is more enjoyable, is as effective as high-fidelity simulation and requires less of their time, we are providing a valuable service.

9. Do you support any charitable organizations within public safety?

We are currently providing $1 million in grant funding for surge provider training to help combat COVID-19. This year we are also a sponsor of EMS Strong, presented by ACEP in partnership with NAEMT. The program honors EMS professionals while providing important educational resources to help advance the profession nationwide.

10. Is there any fun fact or trivia that you’d like to share with our users about you or your company?

We really do love VR. We do everything in-house, including the instructional design, motion capture, voice recordings, animation and development. And when we aren't working on our own product you can find the team playing Beat Saber in VR.

11. What’s next for your company? Any upcoming new projects or initiatives?

This Summer we'll be launching pediatric resuscitation training products for pre- and in-hospital audiences, followed by in-hospital scenarios for perioperative and obstetric emergencies.

Securing our Series B funding this year lets us expand our VR content library, and further develop the virtual learning platform to facilitate enterprise scale deployments and analytics.

"We're lucky that we can continue to expand our focus on patient safety and quality issues and provide customers with truly transformative training and virtual simulation technologies that will mitigate risks and ultimately improve patient outcomes.” Cole Sandau, CEO

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