Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the most common defect at birth. Effective training for clinical professionals is essential in order to provide a high standard of care for patients. Visual aids for teaching complex CHD have remained mostly unchanged in recent years, with traditional methods such as diagrams and specimens still essential for delivering educational content. Diagrams and other 2D visualisations for teaching are in most cases artistic illustrations with no direct relation to true, 3D medical data. Specimens are rare, difficult for students to access and are limited to specific institutions. Digital, patient-specific models could potentially address these problems within educational programmes. Virtual Reality (VR) can facilitate the access to digital models and enhance the educational experience. In this study, we recorded and analysed the sentiment of clinical professionals towards VR when learning about CHD. A VR application (VheaRts) containing a set of patient-specific models was developed in-house. The application was incorporated into a specialised cardiac morphology course to assess the feasibility of integrating such a tool, and to measure levels of acceptance. Attendees were clinical professionals from a diverse range of specialities. VR allowed users to interact with six different patient-derived models immersed within a 3D space. Feedback was recorded for 58 participants. The general response towards the use of VR was overwhelmingly positive, with 88% of attendees rating 4 or 5 for ‘helpfulness of VR in learning CHD’ (5-points Likert scale). Additionally, 70% of participants with no prior VR experience rated 4 or 5 for ‘intuitiveness and ease of use’. Our study indicates that VR has a high level of acceptance amongst clinical trainees when used as an effective aid for learning congenital heart disease. Additionally, we noted three specific use-cases where VR offered novel teaching experiences not possible with conventional methods.
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