How Medicine Can Learn From Gaming

sector - health & wellness
type - opinion
Clinical learning experiences through simulation have gained momentum and virtual reality (VR) is emerging as a new, powerful training tool for surgeons.

Why is VR effective as a tool? Well, video gamers and surgeons share important attributes: precision and accuracy, visual-spatial skills, depth perception ability and total immersion in a task.

Investment in gaming is fuelling new innovations at the forefront of technological development and highly immersive control experiences – and this is precisely what surgeons require. Blind navigation, for example, is the design principle used to enable gamers to instinctively find each control element by touch, without ever needing to look away.

The pandemic played a part in this conversion. Throughout several lockdowns, remote technology and virtual collaboration tools were widely adopted. During this time, VR became a vital tool to ensure trainee surgeons were able to continue developing their skills, with Oculus headsets helping to mimic real-life surgical procedures and scenarios, accelerating the rate of learning for many students.

Although it may seem odd to use tools and technology associated with gaming during a time of extremely limited in-person contact, they created an environment that allowed the next generation of surgeons to learn and develop their skills.


Published by:

5 December 2022

Author: Eugene Canavan

Image: Future Visuals VR Training Solution VISIONxR, UK


Motus/D is a surgical device inspired by professional gaming controls and interaction devices, UK

But the challenges and limitations of VR are important to identify. Like other technologies, VR has general challenges – an important one being the effects on face-to-face communications and the medical relationship between the physician and patient. The risks of inaccuracy are higher, as evaluations made in real settings ensure precision and effectiveness. Furthermore, cost limitations, changes in users’ attitude, and a lack of clinicians’ knowledge and awareness about this technology are huge factors in VR’s progression in medicine.

Tech evolving from the gaming sector has huge potential to recast surgical training and procedures, but being still in its infancy, there is a lot to consider. As a designer, I’m excited by the opportunities to elevate human potential in breaking new healthcare frontiers. If the fast-paced progression in the technology we’ve seen so far is anything to go by, it will be curious to see how this can be accelerated further.

It’s impossible to say exactly what the future will look like as there are so many potential tangents along the way, but hopefully we’ll see designers collaborate with medical institutions, surgeons, patients and gaming experts to create ground-breaking devices and procedures for the medical world.

Eugene Canavan is medical design director at Design Partners, part of PA Consulting.

‘Hopefully, we’ll see designers collaborate with medical institutions, surgeons, patients and gaming experts to create ground-breaking devices and procedures’
Eugene Canavan, medical design director, Design Partners

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