University of South Florida

Immertec, USF Health awarded NIH small business grant to study effectiveness of immersive virtual reality in medical training

The research teams will use Immertec’s live virtual reality (VR) platform to train USF Health resident physicians in critical emergency scenarios as a part of their overall graduate medical education, measuring learning outcomes and user experience.

TAMPA, Fla. (August 17, 2021) – Immertec, a medtech startup company, and the USF Health Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS) were recently awarded a $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) to examine the effectiveness of training emergency medicine physician residents using Immertec’s virtual reality (VR) platform.

The NIH-funded research will allow Immertec to conduct an experiment in collaboration with USF Health CAMLS to assess the feasibility of live VR training for specific medical tasks carried out by emergency medicine residents from the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. The immersive experience will allow remote professionals from any location to wear the VR headset and train as if they are in the room, with access to timely medical feeds, including X-rays, vitals, and endoscopic cameras.

Medical simulation training with an expert instructor is known to improve patient outcomes, yet expertise and resources are not always available at the point of need. And with limitations on face-to-face instruction, educators previously relied on 2D teleconferencing technology for telementoring, which is limited by lack of depth and field of view.

Immertec’s technology enables medical professionals to train immersively from a remote location by streaming real-time stereoscopic video of the clinical setting to a VR headset. The stereoscopic video provides additional visuospatial information, including multiple medical feeds, compared to 2D displays, providing a greater feeling of immersion while training.

This study will compare Immertec’s live VR training platform to traditional 2D teleconferencing technologies and determine how it impacts the quality of learning, training outcomes, and user experience of remote learning.

The research effort will be led by Shannon Bailey, PhD, human factors scientist at Immertec and principal investigator on this grant, and will be in collaboration with USF Health CAMLS, led by Haru Okuda, MD, executive director of CAMLS, assistant vice president of the USF Health Office of Interprofessional Education and Practice, and professor in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

“The research conducted in collaboration with USF Health CAMLS will provide empirical evidence on how immersive remote technologies compare to traditional telementoring methods in medicine. We look forward to leveraging the extensive knowledge of the USF Health team and CAMLS’ state-of-the-art facility to better understand how to improve our technology to train medical professionals,” Dr. Bailey said.

Such collaborations between industry and academic medicine have the potential to accelerate innovations for improving healthcare education and ultimately patient outcomes.

“We’re excited to collaborate with an innovative startup like Immertec,” Dr. Okuda said. “We believe strongly in the potential of immersive training technology and now have the opportunity to conduct research to better understand how virtual reality can change the way medical professionals learn in today’s climate.”

Immertec’s platform includes a desktop portal that allows companies and organizations to schedule training events, a mobile app that allows attendees to register for events and request a VR headset, and a hardware camera cart present in a clinical setting to stream live content. Immertec’s platform allows medical professionals to be immersed in a live clinical setting, communicate with attendees, and view multiple medical feeds while wearing a VR headset from a remote location.

USF Health CAMLS, located in downtown Tampa, Florida, is one of the world’s largest, free-standing simulation facilities exclusively dedicated to training healthcare professionals. The CAMLS facility is a 90,000-square-foot, three-story facility that provides a state-of-the-art, high-fidelity clinical environment that includes surgical skills labs, operating trauma suites, and patient exam rooms.

The first phase of the research project will validate Immertec’s immersive technology in medical training and provide empirical evidence of the technical and scientific merit of this remote training approach for future commercialization in the health care field.

Images highlighting the technology that will be used in the study, courtesy of Immertec:

On-site at CAMLS, Dr. Luis Llerena demonstrates a procedure on a mannequin while camera and audio equipment record and send the info to trainees on the program.


A trainee uses the VR headshot and controls to participate in Dr. Llerena’s demonstration.


The viewpoint within VR headset include visual, data, and interactivity options.


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