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Original research
Initial experiences with virtual reality as a tool for observation in needs-driven health technology innovation
  1. Kenneth H Perrone1,
  2. Katherine Sherman Blevins1,2,
  3. Lyn Denend2,
  4. Richard Fan2,
  5. Justin Huelman2,
  6. James Kennedy Wall1,2
  1. 1 Department of Surgery, Stanford Hospital and Clinics, Stanford, California, USA
  2. 2 Byers Center for Biodesign, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr James Kennedy Wall, Pediatric Surgery, Stanford Children's Health, Palo Alto, CA 94305, USA; jkwall{at}


The Stanford University Biodesign Innovation Fellowship teaches a needs-based methodology for the innovation of health technologies. This involves the direct observation of patient care in a variety of settings, ranging from the hospital to the home, to identify unmet needs that can be addressed via innovative new technology-based solutions. Expanding this model to educate a larger population of undergraduate and graduate students is limited by access to real clinical observations, partly due to hospital policies and patient privacy concerns. We hypothesise that the use of virtual reality (VR) can be an effective tool to provide students access to a variety of clinical scenarios for identifying needs for innovation. In this preliminary study, two undergraduate students observed clinical care live in the operating room (OR) and using VR headsets. The students identified needs in both settings and compared the two experiences with a short survey. While VR did not offer a complete replication of the OR experience, it served as a viable tool for learning how to make observations. VR merits further investigation as an educational tool for needs finding and as a proxy for live clinical observations.

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  • Contributors KHP and JKW designed the study. KHP, RF and JH performed the study. KSB and LD performed data analysis and manuscript preparation. All authors reviewed, revised and approved the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article.