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Teresa Shawley hopes new hires train daily with VR technology.
Photo provided by CoxHealth
Teresa Shawley hopes new hires train daily with VR technology.

CoxHealth, Tacit roll out partnership

Hospital moves forward on planned $50,000 investment for virtual reality training

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Having worked with about a dozen companies since creating Tacit, a virtual reality-training platform, its creators are gathering feedback from businesses to help determine how best to utilize the technology.

To that end, Tacit, a spinoff of development studio Self Interactive, both founded by Charlie Rosenbury, has teamed with the Missouri Job Center on a seven-question survey that inquires about training practices, money spent on training and skills that would benefit new hires.

The survey went live Feb. 11 and was emailed to about 1,500 addresses, said Tyler Drenon, director of marketing and business development for Self Interactive and Tacit. Questions on the survey are meant to gauge the interest of employers in utilizing VR technology for training purposes, he said.

“We want to take the temperature and see what people think,” Drenon said, noting nearly 500 people have responded to the survey, a response rate of around 30 percent. “So they’re pretty engaged. Surveys are not super popular. People don’t really like to take the time to do that, and I totally understand why.”

The survey deadline is March 4.

Ahead of that date, CoxHealth has jumped on as a client. The Springfield-based health system is initially investing $50,000 for VR software and equipment to train staff in its environmental services department, said Scott Rogers, CoxHealth’s system director for performance integration and innovation.

Environmental Services Manager Teresa Shawley said the first new hire trainee went through the simulator Feb. 25.

“I was so excited that I literally giggled out loud,” Shawley said of when she tested training. “It’s super.”

Tacit’s program essentially recreates a CoxHealth patient room to train staff on cleaning the room upon discharging a patient – including the particular use of chemicals.

“There are a lot of tips that pop up that kind of explain the why behind what they’re doing. It gives you some pointers on best practices,” Shawley said.

Tech connections
The first Tacit module launched in 2017 for use in the Springfield plant of South Carolina-based Jarden Plastic Solutions.

The VR software leads a new hire through the process of constructing gas spouts in a simulation that Drenon said allows people to be in a consequence-free environment to learn without risk of damaging equipment or a need for redundant materials.

“Being able to manipulate things spatially really helps people as far as the development of memory and procedural development as well,” he said.

Also among Tacit’s clientele is Strafford-based manufacturer AmProd Holdings LLC, which operates American Products LLC, Press Room Equipment LLC and EnSight Solutions LLC.

Bill Hammitt, president and chief operating officer, said the company purchased the $1,000 headset and computer equipment from Tacit to use as a marketing tool at trade shows. It allows the company to demonstrate products, including telecommunication and industrial computer enclosures and food processing equipment. 

The next step is the training functionality, Hammitt said, and they’re currently discussing those options.

“We believe there’s a lot of potential, we’re just not really sure how yet,” he said. “We’re still layering that in with Tacit.”

Hammitt said he hopes to add the training modules this year, but he’s uncertain of the financial investment.

Turnover defense
A recurring theme in the survey responses, Drenon said, is mention of soft skills as a training option because business owners and managers say they’re lacking among new hires. Respondents also note a desire for better solutions when it comes to time-consuming onboarding processes.

Drenon said Tacit’s long-term vision is for the platform to offer many training modules for industry skills that users would be able to scroll through. Some might include welding, HVAC, nursing and construction. For example, it could start with a welding 101 basic module, then progress to metal inert gas and tungsten inert gas options, he said.

“We’ll then be partnering with private-sector partners to bring that level of expertise to the training because we’re not welders,” he said. “We’re not going to watch YouTube videos or anything.”

Drenon said the module proves medical training isn’t like what people see on television.

“A lot of people have a misconception that the medical field is going to be like ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ or something, and it turns out pretty differently,” he said.

Aside from the training applications, the technology also can be a draw to recruit and retain frontline health care workers, Rogers said.

“From a higher level at CoxHealth, this was our first step into VR training that could make an impact with our frontline workers,” he said, noting many of the environmental services workers start out at the hospital’s minimum wage, currently at $10.50 per hour.

As a result, Shawley said turnover is high in the department.

“So, it was trying to find a way we can attract people to our department,” she said. “VR with millennials and Gen Xers, that’s going to be a big pull to be able to train them.”

Shawley said with the VR training underway, she expects it will be provided at least on a weekly, if not daily, basis for new employees and possibly for current employees as part of reorientation.

“My hope is within 60 to 90 days we’ve got people going through that almost every day,” she said.

The idea for the environmental services module was born out of CoxHealth’s annual Innovation Accelerator. Rogers said he views the health system and Tacit in a partnership, with the hopes of new collaborations in the future.

“It’s an inevitable technology,” Drenon said. “It’s an inevitable thing we’ll be using in the future. I don’t know what form that will take exactly, but we’re trying to figure that out right now.”

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