Effectiveness and Utility of Virtual Reality Simulation as an Educational Tool for Safe Performance of COVID-19 Diagnostics: Prospective, Randomized Pilot Trial

Birrenbach, Tanja; Zbinden, Josua; Papagiannakis, George; Exadaktylos, Aristomenis K.; Müller, Martin; Hautz, Wolf E.; Sauter, Thomas Christian (2021). Effectiveness and Utility of Virtual Reality Simulation as an Educational Tool for Safe Performance of COVID-19 Diagnostics: Prospective, Randomized Pilot Trial. JMIR Serious Games, 9(4), e29586. JMIR Publications 10.2196/29586

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Background: Although the proper use of hygiene and personal protective equipment (PPE) is paramount for preventing the spread of diseases such as COVID-19, health care personnel have been shown to use incorrect techniques for donning/doffing of PPE and hand hygiene, leading to a large number of infections among health professionals. Education and training are difficult owing to the social distancing restrictions in place, shortages of PPE and testing material, and lack of evidence on optimal training. Virtual reality (VR) simulation can offer a multisensory, 3-D, fully immersive, and safe training opportunity that addresses these obstacles.

Objective: The aim of this study is to explore the short- and long-term effectiveness of a fully immersive VR simulation versus a traditional learning method regarding a COVID-19-related skill set and media-specific variables influencing training outcomes.

Methods: This was a prospective, randomized controlled pilot study on medical students (N=29; intervention VR training, n=15, vs control video-based instruction, n=14) to compare the performance of hand disinfection, nasopharyngeal swab taking, and donning/doffing of PPE before and after training and 1 month later as well as variables of media use.

Results: Both groups performed significantly better after training, with the effect sustained over one month. After training, the VR group performed significantly better in taking a nasopharyngeal swab, scoring a median of 14 out of 17 points (IQR 13-15) versus 12 out of 17 points (IQR 11-14) in the control group, P=.03. With good immersion and tolerability of the VR simulation, satisfaction was significantly higher in the VR group compared to the control group (median score of User Satisfaction Evaluation Questionnaire 27/30, IQR 23-28, vs 22/30, IQR 20-24, in the control group; P=.01).

Conclusions: VR simulation was at least as effective as traditional learning methods in training medical students while providing benefits regarding user satisfaction. These results add to the growing body of evidence that VR is a useful tool for acquiring simple and complex clinical skills.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Intensive Care, Emergency Medicine and Anaesthesiology (DINA) > University Emergency Center

UniBE Contributor:

Birrenbach, Tanja Nicole, Exadaktylos, Aristomenis, Müller, Martin (B), Hautz, Wolf, Sauter, Thomas Christian


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services




JMIR Publications




Romana Saredi

Date Deposited:

09 Dec 2021 10:31

Last Modified:

29 Mar 2023 23:38

Publisher DOI:


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