What It Takes to Win And What the Judging Process Was Really Like (From a Winner’s Perspective)

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VRpatients is celebrating after winning an EMS World 2022 Innovation Award. 

“This is vindication for VRpatients,” says Devin Marble, Marketing Director of VRpatients and longtime user of the software. “We work so hard in a bubble and you get so close to the product that you don’t always see it from an objective point of view. It’s extremely validating for us to hear that someone else recognizes and sees the value proposition and potential that we do.”

The award recognizes pioneering products that have the potential to transform EMS care. 

Judges had a chance to experience the products first-hand during the EMS World Expo in Orlando back in October.

The team from VRpatients knew they were a finalist, but didn’t know when the judging would happen.

Marble was the lucky person who had the opportunity to show the judge everything VRpatients has to offer and shared his experiences. So, if you ever wondered what it was like to be a part of the judging process or what qualifications EMS World looked for in choosing the winners, here’s the inside scoop.

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Q: What happened when the judges approached your booth?

I was in the booth doing demos and making a sales pitch about the value of VRpatients when this guy walked up with a briefcase and coffee. 

We started talking a little bit and I asked him what he does and who he works for. That’s when he said he was one of the judges and was there to judge us for the award.

I just kind of flipped a switch inside my brain at that point, realizing I needed to explain to him why we’re a disruptor in the industry. I explained what sets us apart aside from just cost. 

He also saw the product, the quality of the artwork, and how it works. He was wowed.

Q: How is VRpatients “a pioneering product?”

When the judge asked me that exact same question, I was excited to tell him we’re the only platform on the market designed so the customer does not have to engage with a video game engineer to build their simulations.

You build your own simulations in virtual reality without needing to hire a game developer which makes VRpatients extremely affordable and scalable and puts the power in the customer’s hands. 

We’ve created 20 ready-to-go cases which are included with the subscription to VRpatients. They all have a different avatar, take place in a different environment, and have a different clinical issue to solve.

So immediately when a new customer starts, they’ve got 20 complete cases ready to deploy to students. If they want to change the patient, environment, disease process, or something else, it’s a simple drag and drop. They can go in and make that change without needing to know how to code or pay for a whole new case, which is a huge deal.

With other training products, customers pay around $30,000 for one case and you get a great case, but you can’t alter anything without paying for a whole new custom case. 

Q: For the award, the products needed to be new or have undergone significant design changes after January 2021. VRpatients has been around longer than that, with the original version launching in 2018. What changes happened during this judging period that were significant?

The biggest change that we made in 2022 was the addition of trauma moulage to our platform, which was a humongous build on our part. 

We spent so much time, effort, and resources to provide the most robust product for the customer as possible, putting the power in the hands of the sim specialist. They need to be able to add any cut or skin condition to any part of the avatar, and it just needs to work in the sim without problem or heavy lifting.

That meant we needed to engineer our platform so an avatar patient who [for example] has a cut on their arm and a burn on their shoulder in one simulation can be changed to a different patient with different ailments in the next simulation with a few simple clicks. All the moulage appears and works on the different avatar and is physiologically correct. 

When we crossed that barrier, we truly created something that has never existed in the market before.

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Q: What do you think impressed the judges the most?

I think the judges were most impressed by four things: the moulage, the accessibility, the scalability, and the cost. 

I saw the judge’s reaction after explaining how the moulage works and that is just click, drag, and drop with no coding required. That really empowers the sim specialist to take control of how their students learn in virtual reality.

Our platform is usable with or without a VR headset, which makes it extremely flexible. Students can practice at home on the web with just an internet connection so the system is available to students who have a VR headset or those who use a library computer. When the judge heard that, he was very surprised by the accessibility. 

VRpatients is also scalable, meaning asynchronously you can put four people through virtual reality on the same simulation or 400. The cloud syncs each student to the system independently so it is infinitely scalable to put as many people as you want into simulation at the same time. 

Then there’s price. Because we have created something that is so scalable, it puts the power in the user’s hands. We are teaching them to fish and giving them a fishing pole at the same time since they can run a simulation any way they want.

We’re able to offer the platform at a fraction of the cost of competitive products. We also offer a transferrable per-student “seat” so as cohorts complete a training program, other students can transfer into that “seat.” 

This is not reserved for doctors or colleges with large endowments. This is for anyone who wants to go to the next level in their simulation and create a better nurse, a better paramedic, or a better medical student. All of them can do it.

Q: What’s next for the VRpatients product? 

We’re building towards a feature that will allow the avatars to change clothes and not only will it appear on any avatar they want, but let’s say they had a wound on the leg that was bleeding, we want the blood to start coming through the clothing.

That needs to be simple for the user. 

Those are the types of barriers that when we cross over, changes the game. Because we’ve invented something that allows sweat or blood to appear gradually through clothing on an avatar, it makes things appear extremely realistic to how physiology actually works in real life.

That is unmatched power for instructors to be able to provide their students with exactly what they need to succeed.

We work extremely hard to be as close to real life as possible. It’s still virtual reality and you’re still looking at graphics, but we want things to act and respond in a way that makes the student think and make a critical decision.

Q: What does it mean to VRpatients to win this kind of prestigious award?

It really ignites excitement amongst our team and pride amongst our developers because it makes us feel like we’re making a difference. Our Art and Dev teams work tirelessly with healthcare professionals to make the sim as close to real life as possible. It’s still virtual reality and you’re still looking at graphics, but we want things to act and respond in a way that makes the student think and make a critical decision.

We intend to disrupt the marketplace in a positive way by providing something to people who otherwise never would have been able to touch virtual reality and provide something that is infinitely scalable, flexible and cost-effective.

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