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Ohio University, partners will collaborate on virtual reality simulations to educate professionals on major health issues

Ohio University will partner with Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Medicine, University of Toledo (UToledo), MetroHealth, and Equitas Health to educate Ohio’s Medicaid providers and other healthcare professionals in the state of Ohio on key health issues impacting the state.

The $6.4 million grant awarded by the Ohio Department of Medicaid and administered from the Ohio Colleges of Medicine Government Resource Center will allow the institutions to make virtual reality (VR) simulations that address three important issues: Health Equity and Cultural Humility for the LGBTQ+ community; Elder Abuse in Older Adults with Disabilities; and Maternal Infant Health and Intimate Partner Violence.

Matt Love, virtual reality production coordinator for the Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab at OHIO, will act as production coordinator, and Elizabeth Beverly, Osteopathic Heritage Foundation Ralph S. Licklider, D.O., Endowed Professor in Behavioral Diabetes, as well as associate professor of primary care at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine,  will serve as primary investigator and medical and grant expert on the projects. GRID Lab director John Bowditch is also a co-investigator on the project and is currently working on creating a custom application for screening in headsets, something that will be very valuable to the immersion for patient providers.

“My area of expertise is in evaluation, so I will lead the assessment of the three VR simulations, but, because this work is so much fun, I plan to be involved at all stages of the grant from script writing to filming to dissemination of the VR to providers,” Beverly said. “OHIO has the most amazing team of writers, directors, producers, and cinematographers, and I consider myself lucky to be in their presence. With this new grant, we also get to collaborate with top-notch Medicaid providers and subject matter experts from CWRU, UToledo, MetroHealth, and Equitas Health. The amount of talent assembled on this grant is remarkable.”

The simulations, which are continuations of the Medicaid Equity Simulation Project started in December 2018, are being created in order to help healthcare providers and their teams be able to identify signs of elder abuse or intimate partner violence, as well as practice cultural humility in their care of all people.

“By receiving this award, I feel a strong validation that our previous project was successful and demonstrates the value of what the GRID Lab and OHIO have created in the past,” Love said. “The fact that we’re now being funded for a two-year project goes to show we’ve made an impact and that the Ohio Department of Medicaid values what we’ve been doing.”

The original simulation included 12 videos for each character that would introduce them, show the relationship of the character to the Medicaid provider, as well as guide simulations which gave participants the opportunity to practice through the VR simulation.

In the new series, each character will have only six videos for participants to watch to allow for the projects to work easier into patient providers’ schedules; however, the videos will continue to have a similar format, introducing the character and relationship.

“We at the GRID Lab are huge believers in collaboration and love working with experts in their fields, whether that is collaborating with other colleges within OHIO or with external entities like CWRU, UToledo, MetroHealth and Equitas Health who have been a huge help in providing subject matter experts in the medical field,” Love explained. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to be partnering with them on this project because of the expertise they bring to the table regarding the subject matter we’re exploring. As a result of their involvement, our characters and more specifically the educational materials developed around them are going to be that much richer and more complete.”

The GRID Lab will work with OHIO’s College of Fine Arts, the Scripps College of Communication, and the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine to incorporate students and faculty experts to help in multiple ways, such as acting as the characters and providers, designing the set, filming the simulation, providing medical terminology and expertise, and more.

CWRU, UToledo, and the MetroHealth Simulation Institute were part of the planning team that identified the topics being addressed and created talking points and conversations to help better understand what healthcare outcomes need to be improved and addressed. They will also be heavily involved in the statewide dissemination of the VR simulations, spreading them out to a broader audience, and allowing for a more meaningful impact for the healthcare community.

Subject matter experts from Equitas Health and MetroHealth are providing insightful knowledge from a healthcare perspective, assisting in the development of the storylines to assure that appropriate medical teaching points are included. The lived experiences of these clinicians will be incorporated into the characters, which will make the simulations more meaningful and successful, and are being developed in collaboration with people from the community.

The training videos are intended for healthcare providers and people who have a relationship with a Medicaid patient and are being designed to help primary care teams serving at-risk populations to improve their quality of care and health outcomes, and more readily identify red flags and warning signs.

“Together, we will craft complex narratives that address critical issues in health equity in Ohio,” Beverly said. “These VR simulations will raise awareness about implicit bias in healthcare while simultaneously increasing diversity and inclusion in storytelling. The beauty of these novel VR trainings is that it provides viewers a glimpse inside the lives of their most vulnerable patients. You get to see where they live, see their struggles, and feel their emotions. It’s a powerful teaching tool that can transform how we educate practicing and future healthcare professionals.”

The Medicaid Equity Simulation Project is funded by the Ohio Department of Medicaid and administered by the Ohio Colleges of Medicine Government Resource Center. The views expressed in this press release and VR simulations are solely those of the authors and do not represent the views of the state of Ohio or federal Medicaid programs.  

July 29, 2021
Samantha Pelham