All posts by Richard Bridgen

What role for virtual reality in healthcare, and specifically, health libraries?

Most of us have probably heard about virtual reality (VR) through the lens of gaming.

By dronepicr (Gamescom Playstation VR Playseat) [CC BY 2.0(], via Wikimedia Commons
We’ve all seen the pictures of people wearing the headsets, totally immersed in a different world, shooting at zombies and aliens and anything else gamers get up to.
VR certainly has a more serious side. Take this next image for instance.
This is a researcher with the European Space Agency (ESA) exploring using VR for controlling planetary rovers and satellites in space. He can practice over and over again in a safe and secure environment before the real thing.
ESA [CC BY-SA 3.0-igo (], via Wikimedia Commons

As the above examples show, VR can be used to create simulated environments that exactly replicate real life environments to enable testing of methods and user interaction and learning. VR has a growing role in health medicine, whether in surgery, rehabilitation or education.

Take a couple of recent examples at Torbay Hospital. An intensive care patient broke his neck a few years ago, leaving him paralysed and unable to walk or grip with his hands. He was being slowly rehabilitated and was recently hooked up to Virtual Wembury, which enables the patient to virtually cycle through the village of Wembury in South Devon. The patient experiences changing scenery that speeds up as he goes faster, providing a more interactive experience. The patient’s time and distance is recorded, so when he next gets on the virtual bike he can compete against his previous day’s attempt. In human terms, this meant the patient was pushing himself to go further each time, whilst enjoying beautiful scenery and improving his mental wellbeing.

Torbay Hospital is also using VR to improve doctors and nurses’ understanding of the patient’s perspective. For example, a patient journey moving from an ambulance, into a resuscitation bay, and then into theatre is filmed in 3D. Doctors and nurses can study this to discuss the environment, the patient’s state of mind, staff actions and interactions, and how these can affect the patient. The advantage of 3D is that the medical professional can stop the video at any point, look around through 360 degrees and see what the patient sees. This has resulted in doctors having more empathy with their patients.

King’s College Hospital in London has created an app that helps take the fear out of MRI scans for children. In 3D virtual reality, it allows the child to experience the journey from arriving at reception to having the actual scan, along with the loud noises they would hear, from a safe location.

All of the above are fabulous innovations, but what do they have to do with health libraries?

The obvious one is offering VR as an additional learning method within the library. We all provide access to print and electronic books and journals, and often to anatomy software, but all of these are in 2D. What VR can offer is a more immersive experience in 3D. Think about trying to learn what the heart looks like in 2D, or as a static demonstration model. Wouldn’t it be better for students to be able to peel back layers of a body to get to the heart, to be able to walk around it and see it from different angles, see how it interacts with other component parts of the body that are fully labelled, and if they want, pull apart the heart to see what it looks like inside?

As the VR in hospitals examples highlight above, VR can significantly aid patient wellbeing, so why not for staff wellbeing as well? Many health libraries now offer a health and wellbeing section for their employees. VR can help staff escape from their workplace into a different world – whether it is immersing yourself in a garden and hearing the birds singing and water trickling in the pond to being outside on the moors and hearing the wind whistling around you, to moving around in a forest and examining all the local flora and fauna.


National LKS Website Requirements Survey Analysis

Thanks to all of you who responded to the recent National LKS website requirements survey. We had 199 responses with great feedback from all regions. Below is a summary of the analysis of the survey responses. For the complete report please use this link.

In general respondents want a national LKS website to be able to do as much as is offered by current national and regional websites. It needs to be easy to use and maintain, and to work within the constraints of local Trust ICT policies.

The top must haves included:

  • Google type search for content. Advanced search and filtering are available.
  • Act as a store for documentation, tools, statistics, reading lists, templates etc.
  • Able to upload quality framework returns easily
  • Includes Events Calendar and Events booking system
  • Set up group areas to which only members of the group have access to store and work on documents and manage projects
  • A range of communications tools is available, including blogs, mailing lists and messaging.
  • Include a database to act as a repository for research or documents
  • National, regional and local communities of practice should be able to be set up
  • Group members can message/email each other within their group area and communicate with the LKS Community more widely.
  • Ability to create regional/sub-regional partitions (e.g. for Midlands and East, or for East of England)
  • Document storage allows for version control, for group members to be able to work on the same document. Meta data including keywords and categories is available.
  • Who has made changes to a document, or made comments about it, is recorded on the document
  • eLearning content can be hosted.

Respondents were also asked to choose their five most important functions. The first five in the above list were ranked as the most important by respondents.

Nice to haves include collaborative tools to manage projects, communities of practice, documentation, personalisation, audio and video conferencing, web forms to capture information and record it in a database, and the ability to search documents using a local discovery system

Comments relating to Question 4: Are there any other features would you would want included in the specification covered ease of use, alerting, file sharing and technical aspects:

Comments relating to question 5, Do you have any further comments on the critical success factors for a new national platform which meets national, regional and local LKS community needs? Centred around usability, maintenance and editing, access and local ICT issues, the functionality of existing platforms, engagement and consultation.

An analysis of responses at a regional level are also included in section D.

The National LKS Website Reference Group is currently setting up  a website using an HEE content management system and technologies.  We will test this to see if it meets our requirements and will work locally. Expect more communications about the testing you can do, over the coming weeks and months.

In the meantime, we need to give HEE Web Development Team some ideas for the look and feel of the site. If there is a site out there that you feel we should try and replicate or emulate in the new national LKS website, please send details of the site to

Richard Bridgen
National LKS Website Reference Group Lead

Core Content Re-Procurement – June Update

Just an update about the Core Content Reprocurement so that you know what’s happening.  Since my last post in March and Helen Bingham’s survey feedback post in April:

  • The National Core Content Re-Procurement Group continues to meet regularly.  This is made up of representatives from Health Education England, NICE and the LKS community.
  • Following the survey of LKS managers and audit of local e-resource procurement the group produced a long list of the resources in which the LKS community is interested in purchasing, assessed them against the high-level criteria (breadth; quality; value for money; discoverability; continuity; LKS recommendation), and thereby derived a short list, divided into three tiers.
  • These resources have been included in the Invitation to Quote (ITQ).  This is sent to all capable providers on the NICE Electronic and Print Content Framework Agreement.
  • Suppliers have until 10th August to respond to the ITQ.
  • Once quotes are received they will be evaluated and decisions made about the content to procure. We should be able inform you about the selection decisions in mid-October.
  • We know that with a fixed national budget we won’t be able to purchase all the resources LKS staff would like to see made available to the NHS workforce through the National Core Content process. As a result, we will be engaging with LKS managers and Trusts to explore the possibility of pooling some of the funding which HEE currently distributes to Trusts to enable more central or collaborative purchasing.

Richard Bridgen on behalf of the National Core Content Re-Procurement Group