Goals of the project
Education for pharmacy students requires specialized training in the preparation of parenteral (injectable) products. The cost to build a compounding facility compliant with national regulatory requirements (USP 797) is $1 million or greater. Materials for training (medications, intravenous fluids, syringes, etc.) are very expensive and cannot be reused. In order to minimize cost and optimize student training, faculty, staff, and students within the Purdue University College of Pharmacy and Purdue’s Envision Center designed and developed a unique, USP 797 compliant VIC based on video game technology (Unity). The first goal associated with this project was to create a virtual learning environment that could be updated as regulatory requirements change, with the only expense being programming versus construction. The second goal was to afford students advanced opportunities to practice techniques associated with preparing parenteral products. The third goal was to expand the utility of the VIC to include other colleges of pharmacy, pharmacy technician training programs, hospitals and health-systems, the pharmaceutical industry and any other institutions/organizations associated with the preparation of parenteral products and the certification of individuals involved with this practice.
Nature of the Collaboration
This project evolved when the lead, Dr. Steve Abel, met Steve Dunlop while hosting a guest at the Envision Center. The two engaged in dialogue regarding possible mutually beneficial collaboration. Almost immediately the VIC was identified as a priority and opportunity. At the time, John B. Hertig was a student working closely with Dr. Abel within the College of Pharmacy. Dr. Hertig returned to Purdue University in 2011 to join the Center for Medication Safety Advancement. He immediately reunited with the VIC team to continue project development. The initial collaboration was enhanced through a competitive grant process through Purdue’s Office of the Provost where Dr. Abel successfully garnered a $70,000 instructional innovation grant that was supplemented by $15,000 from the College of Pharmacy Dean and $15,000 from Dr. Abel’s home department, Pharmacy Practice. The project included several computer graphics and technology undergraduate and graduate students who have facilitated development of the VIC over time. From inception, this innovative project has been a complete team effort.
The skills and tools utilized in this project included visits and photo sessions in actual cleanroom environments to facilitate computer graphics technology student understanding of the environment they were charged to create. Pharmacy students created the design and layout of the VIC based on regulatory standards as well as usual practice settings. Pharmacy students also created training exercises included within the cleanroom. Pharmacy students identified and secured permission to utilize actual product labeling from medical and pharmaceutical companies for the VIC, to assure reality of the student experience. Programming and VIC interfaces, including manipulation and feedback functionality, advanced significantly when the project was transferred to the Unity game engine.
The tools and equipment used to create the project, as it exists now include the Unity game engine and standard computers for programming.
Within the Purdue Envision Center there is an immersive “cave” environment. Our initial efforts were focused on creating an immersive experience for on-campus students. While this was highly effective as an educational tool, it lacked the overall utility and transferability for other settings (Am J Pharmaceut Ed 75(1) Article 7:1-7,2011). For this reason we have diverted our attention to the online version of the VIC, which can be accessed anywhere in the world. Improvements made in the online version are then transferred into the immersive environment.
Nearly every step of this project resulted in a major milestone. Our greatest successes included permission to use the actual medication labels within the virtual environment, making it completely realistic and the transfer of VIC to the Unity game engine.
Our initial challenge was funding. We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to apply for and secure an instructional innovation grant.
This project yielded the one and only trademarked VIC. There is one other product created using Unity that has similarities but lacks regulatory compliance and data accuracy.
Innovations, impact and successes
To date we have one refereed publication and a second under review. We have trained over 2,100 students using the technology. Based on our model, nearly 50% of students report improved comfort in explaining parenteral compounding, a hallmark of safe practice.
We have inter-university collaboration with the University of Toledo and the University of Michigan. Various health-systems and insurance companies have expressed interest. Industrial partners include Baxter (China) and Dr. Reddy’s Labs (India).