Virtual radiology training by Bayer Medical Care and BlueTea leads to real partnership
This article is approved by Bayer Medical Care under number: PP-PF-RAD-ALL-0520-1
The development of a virtual training game for the Radiology MEDRAD® Centargo Injection System for Bayer Radiology (part of Bayer Pharmaceuticals) by BlueTea is more than a common customer relationship. Both companies entered into a real partnership during the development process of a game based learning experience”, indicate both Mary-Anne de Ruijter of Bayer and Anamaria Kudrna of BlueTea.
Virtual training methods are on the rise and are being implemented in more and more places. “Often, these methods complement more traditional classroom training methods, but we now see that classroom is complimentary to the virtual training” said Mary-Anne. Companies and organisations are increasingly trying to innovate in this area. Two years ago, this was also the case at Maastricht-based Bayer Medical Care. This subsidiary of the large German pharmaceutical group Bayer supplies amongst other things, the MEDRAD® Centargo Injection System for radiology applications. The system is designed to deliver the necessary contrast agent to a patient during a CT scan.
Sales and Key Account Managers, Clinical Specialists and Service Specialists previously received only physical classroom training to operate this specific Radiology equipment. During the training, they would learn about the various components of the Centargo injection system, their function, operation and how to troubleshoot any problems. After this training, they were knowledgeable in this system and use all of its facets and/or solve or repair any problems as far as possible.
Bayer felt that the quality of the training experience could be improved. "We have been looking at how to further increase the quality of our training methods for a while," says Mary-Anne de Ruijter, Strategy Manager, Commercial Operations EMEA at Bayer. "Normally we give everyone classroom training. Nevertheless, we wanted to enhance efficiency and therefore started looking for an alternative training method or something to complement our current practices."
Bayer looked for these alternatives to supplement to their training courses in order to bring more efficiency. Also alternatives or supplements might make employees more productive. In the previous situation they had less time for their daily work when they had to focus on one-to-one knowledge transfer.
"We looked into augmented reality, seeing if that would add value, and ended up with the Microsoft HoloLens. When the pandemic started and classroom training stopped, we started using this solution. Yet, we found that the HoloLens was not ideal for large groups of users. This takes up a lot of resources from the trainer's perspective”.
"We also wanted to improve the repeatability of the training, so that colleagues have something they can always use as a supporting tool. For example, to refresh knowledge or challenge themselves. Especially when certain features have been added to the system, or colleagues feel they need some refresher training before attending a site or contacting an end-user to help them or enhance their user experience with our device.”
Development of a game based learning tool
The changes Bayer wanted to make to its Centargo training courses put the company, after researching multiple other suppliers, in touch with BlueTea. Bayer Radiology opted for a game based learning solution, because it allows employees the flexibility to take the training whenever and wherever they want. It also gives instructors the chance to focus on other tasks related to their role in knowledge transfer. In addition, a game based learning solution offers more training quality because it is always available and allows a user to make mistakes. More importantly, users learn from the mistake they made. “Workers are much more flexible in attending their training sessions. As a result, they do not have to travel abroad to attend training and can thus experience a higher level of work-life balance. It also prevents them from facing potential backlog, due to time off territory. Furthermore, this flexible way of attending training sessions ensures that other colleagues do not have to take over their tasks while they are training. In the end, everybody benefits" says de Ruijter.
The game based training has around 40 levels or lessons’. The time playing a level takes between 7 and 28 minutes. Each level starts in the middle of the CT scan room and covers all areas of the Centargo workflow, which includes activities performed in the control room. Employees playing the clinical levels learn every action they must perform, as if they were a radiographer / health care professional using the system. Employees playing our service levels learn how to maintain the Centargo step by step. The similarities are that employees are allowed to make mistakes where the system provides instant feedback, to make knowledge transfer even more valuable.
"For example, our clinical and sales colleagues learn how to perform the best clinical workflow. This is to avoid unnecessary extra work and to ensure that the Centargo operates in the way it was designed: to do less actions on the injector, which means you can care more for your patients. The game based training guides you through this step by step," indicates the Strategy Manager Commercial Operations EMEA at Bayer. "The training flow is therefore exactly how we train employees in real life."
"The game also has a competitive element, hence game based learning. Players can earn points and achieve certain percentages of knowledge, called trophies. So, at the end of each level they can see which colleague has a betterscore. This hopefully encourages employees to play the game again to gain more knowledge or to improve their score further."
BlueTea and VirtualStudio®
BlueTea creates the virtual simulations or games using its self-developed VirtualStudio® toolkit. VirtualStudio® is an innovative no-code content management system for building the virtual levels or lessons. This means that every action in a level can be configured with pre-built interactions. Furthermore, anyone can build these levels. Even without programming experience or complicated technology. This allows content experts to better engage with their content and simplifies game scenario maintenance. In addition, the tool helps content developers to adapt digital learning materials in the developed simulations or trainings to evolving needs that are often procedural.
Bayer also went to work with BlueTea's software tool. "They taught us everything we needed to know about this no-code tool. This enabled us, as a true partner, to create training ourselves. I can make or change any lesson myself", de Ruijter points out.
"Our lesson development team consisted of four people with different backgrounds. With VirtualStudio®, it didn't matter if someone had experience or not. Nobody had an advantage, whether we liked games or not and whether we liked traditional classroom training better or not. It is so intuitive; anyone can work with it."
"After two months, we discovered that we could develop levels ourselves, without the support of BlueTea. Through gameplay they could check if we were doing it right. It was very nice to discover that we could work independently with the software but still have their input to ensure high quality."
"An important advantage is that no technical code is needed. This saved us a lot of time and costs. In total, we created 30 levels ourselves," Mary-Anne continues. "In addition, as indicated, anyone can work with it. This without the necessary technical background and the only requirement being interest and motivation."
Bayer uses the game developed in collaboration with BlueTea in a hybrid environment. A few levels work for virtual reality and in combination with the Oculus VR glasses for conferences and demonstrations. The full version of the training tool is a Microsoft Windows based application and is the actual training game available for all relevant Bayer Radiology employees to 'play' and attend training sessions.
“The cooperation with BlueTea was very pleasant”, Bayer's Mary-Anne de Ruijter points out. "For us in Radiology, game development was a new territory. We started with a small team on a proof-of-concept. This was developed entirely by BlueTea. All we supplied them with was what the real-life training procedure looked like. They gamified this procedure for us, which helped us kick off the goal to have an entire training for the Centargo gamified."
"After the proof-of-concept was accepted, the collaboration changed into a partnership rather than a ‘normal’ supplier-customer relationship. We developed our own levels alongside BlueTea's. This was very important for us. Especially because, as asset owners, we wanted to keep control over the game and the associated content. We didn't want to depend on BlueTea to change or add things due to time urgency attached to some of our requests. Such as translating the game into a local language, or even just changing the flow to improve it, as a small example."
"Although we made more levels, they helped us a lot. When we struggled to make a particular level fun to play or interesting to ensure engagement of the player, they helped us develop it. But that was also mutual. For instance, with the introductory level in our training. We ran into the fact that employees had difficulty navigating, or 'walking' in the game based training. Working with a keyboard and a mouse was new to most. Therefore, we created our own 'introduction levels'. In these levels players learn how to move through the game. This feedback was greatly appreciated by them. So, it was not only learning from BlueTea, but they also learned from us in return."
New insights for BlueTea
This good mutual cooperation where both sides learned from each other is also confirmed by Anamaria Kudrna, Instructional Game Designer at BlueTea. Her responsibilities included being Project Lead for the development of the Centargo game based solution for Bayer.
"One of my main jobs was to familiarize Bayer's developers with VirtualStudio®. I taught them that with this tool they can think in a 'playful' way and also 'playfully' explore how they design the levels. This actually encourages players more to explore things and find out what it brings."
"The experts at Bayer have handled this well. For example, how they managed to pull people into the game based solution who had never played a (video) game before. In addition to the onboarding scenarios, they also added extra content and explanation videos. In this way they managed to ‘put’ gaming skills in players."
Anamaria Kudrna continues: "I was actually only present within the project to guide and help them. The real development work they did themselves. It ended up being a good collaboration because on one side you need the real subject matter experts, in this case the radiology experts and the maintenance experts, and on the other side you need the training experts and the game designers. In the end, we combined so many experts to put the game together and get the best out of it”.
"What I personally got the most out of this collaboration is how I can get someone to interact with the software who has no underlying (development) experience. For example, by creating templates that they could reuse in different places, saving time and effort. I also learned how to make game development more user-friendly, which is very important to BlueTea. Their insights, which were often new to us, gave us a completely different perspective towards how customers dealt with using VirtualStudio® for the first time. In this way, we were able to improve the software and thus make it more user-friendly. So, with these new and different insights, we can only make our products even better.”
At Bayer, the game based training was well received. “Internally, there was a very positive reaction to the training. We hope that this training solution will take a natural place in the Radiology learning journey. Especially when it comes to reducing the complexity and time needed for training to learn functionality of the devices. The game based training helps with that, and through the training people really learn the steps they have to go through in real life." says de Ruijter.
Meanwhile, Bayer is also looking to the future. "Of course, we want to enhance the use and thus the investments in the game based training. For instance, by expanding the training further, as it is designed as a tool that can be used for a longer period. The fact that we can further update and/or translate the game based training ourselves is very important to continue this innovative journey."
"More concretely, we hope to apply the game based training for our next generation of injection systems, but perhaps also for other products. As far as Bayer Radiology is concerned, we will definitely expand the use of game based training. In addition, this tool can be used worldwide. This allows our colleagues in the United States to play the same game based training as employees in the EMEA-region or in Latin America. In the EMEA-region, this involves more than 250 clinical and sales staff and more than 90 service engineers. In the Americas region, this number is naturally a lot higher. All this still excludes our distributors, whose relevant employees will also benefit from this game based training. We are striving to ensure that this investment continues to grow in use.”
"For companies or other organisations that want to use a game based training solution for training methods, BlueTea is a really good partner. Especially if they are looking for a game based' training option that is easy to maintain, flexible, durable and easy to keep up-to-date. BlueTea is always able to guide you through this whole process, making it a very pleasant experience." concludes Bayer's Strategy Manager Commercial Operations EMEA.