Press release: Clinicians trial virtual reality training to improve care for patients with diabetes

Virtual reality diabetes training

Doctors and nurses in Southampton and Portsmouth are piloting a virtual reality training system to help improve the care of people with diabetes during hospital admissions.

The technology, developed by Oxford Medical Simulation, enables clinicians to learn how to manage medical emergencies in a digital environment via a headset.

It helps them work through and recognise potentially life-threatening situations such as seeing patients with extremely high or low blood sugar levels and scores the actions they take to support learning.

The project is led by Dr Partha Kar, of Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, with the help of clinicians including Dr Mayank Patel, a consultant diabetologist at University Hospital Southampton.

It is funded by pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk with the equipment being trialled across the south of England in partnership with Health Education England.

Around 20% of all inpatients at any one time in a UK hospital have diabetes. Currently, at least one in 25 with type 1 diabetes nationally develop a dangerous condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) during their hospital stay.

DKA can develop if the body starts to run short of insulin, such as during the stress of other medical problems, causing a build up of harmful substances in the blood known as ketones.

“Patients with type 1 diabetes in particular are at higher risk of developing serious glucose-related problems when in hospital due to extreme highs and lows in their blood sugar levels,” explained Dr Patel (pictured below).

Mayank Patel“Diabetes emergency situations can escalate quickly and can sometimes be difficult for non-specialists doctors and nurses to recognise, so it is hoped that increased education and training around diabetes in hospital can markedly improve the current statistics.

"Ensuring clinicians are trained effectively to spot potential and manage confirmed diabetes in emergency situations promptly is vital and this immersive digital environment is an innovative and engaging way to do that."

He added: “So far we have trialled the system with 10 doctors in training and the feedback has been really positive, with all of them feeling much more confident about recognising the signs and taking appropriate action."

As part of the collaborative project, the virtual reality equipment will soon be passed to the diabetes and emergency team at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth to trial the kit.

Dr Kar, who is based at the Queen Alexandra Hospital and is also NHS England’s associate national clinical director for diabetes, said: "Embracing technology is at the heart of the NHS long term plan and training doctors using virtual reality is another example of modernising the NHS to help improve care for patients with diabetes."

Posted on Friday 16 August 2019