Better care for COVID patients through virtual reality

An interdisciplinary team from Penn joined efforts with physicians in New York to fast-track virtual reality coronavirus training materials.

When a physician on the coronavirus frontline in New York wanted to create a VR video that demonstrated best practices, especially for medical personnel operating in regions and communities without a large teaching hospital, he reached out to Kyle Cassidy, a staff member at Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication, to discuss a fast-tracked collaboration. Earlier this year, Cassidy received a Penn Model of Excellence Award for his transdisciplinary work with virtual reality (VR), and one of Cassidy’s past projects was readily translatable to the COVID-19 training the team had in mind. 

A black, six-lens camera in the foreground, with actors blurred in the background.
Kyle Cassidy of Annenberg and a team used this camera, which has six outward-facing lenses, to shoot the virtual reality Narcan training.  

In March, when the possibility of a campus lockdown in response to COVID-19 became a certainty, Cassidy checked out VR cameras from the Penn Libraries’ Vitale Digital Media Lab with the sense that they might prove useful. 

Kevin Ching, a physician at Weill Cornell Medicine drafted a script with colleagues, while Cassidy coordinated with Ann Marie Hoyt Brennan, director of the Helene Fuld Pavilion for Innovative Learning and Simulation at Penn Nursing, and Lauren Weinberg Conlon at Penn Medicine to cast “actors”—real nurses and doctors —for the video. And Toccafondi arranged with Vitale staff member Christopher Vandegrift to prepare for editing the footage into its final form.

“So you have people from Weill Cornell Medicine, Annenberg, Penn Medicine, Penn Nursing, and Penn Libraries working on a project to support medical personnel and serve patients nationwide,” says Toccafondi. 

A little over a week from Ching’s first email, Cassidy and the medical staff convened in the Emergency Department at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to film, with Conlon serving as the principal actor. The end result is an open access, 360° training video, available on YouTube

Read more at Penn Libraries News.