Upskilling health and care workers with augmented and virtual reality: protocol for a realist review to develop an evidence-informed programme theory

BMJ Open. 2021 Jul 5;11(7):e050033. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-050033.


Introduction: Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are increasingly used to upskill health and care providers, including in surgical, nursing and acute care settings. Many studies have used AR/VR to deliver training, providing mixed evidence on their effectiveness and limited evidence regarding contextual factors that influence effectiveness and implementation. This review will develop, test and refine an evidence-informed programme theory on what facilitates or constrains the implementation of AR or VR programmes in health and care settings and understand how, for whom and to what extent they 'work'.

Methods and analysis: This realist review adheres to the Realist And Meta-narrative Evidence Syntheses: Evolving Standards (RAMESES) standards and will be conducted in three steps: theory elicitation, theory testing and theory refinement. First, a search will identify practitioner, academic and learning and technology adoption theories from databases (MEDLINE, Scopus, CINAHL, Embase, Education Resources Information Center, PsycINFO and Web of Science), practitioner journals, snowballing and grey literature. Information regarding contexts, mechanisms and outcomes will be extracted. A narrative synthesis will determine overlapping configurations and form an initial theory. Second, the theory will be tested using empirical evidence located from the above databases and identified from the first search. Quality will be assessed using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool (MMAT), and relevant information will be extracted into a coding sheet. Third, the extracted information will be compared with the initial programme theory, with differences helping to make refinements. Findings will be presented as a narrative summary, and the MMAT will determine our confidence in each configuration.

Ethics and dissemination: Ethics approval is not required. This review will develop an evidence-informed programme theory. The results will inform and support AR/VR interventions from clinical educators, healthcare providers and software developers. Upskilling through AR/VR learning interventions may improve quality of care and promote evidence-based practice and continued learning. Findings will be disseminated through conference presentations and peer-reviewed journal articles.

Keywords: education & training (see medical education & training); health informatics; information technology; medical education & training.