WEDNESDAY, Aug. 11 (HealthDay News) -- The vast majority of medical school students believe that technology in the form of virtual reality exercises could help them to develop the skills they will need as future doctors, a new survey reveals.

The survey of 200 medical students from the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found nearly all (98 percent) believing the technology to be a definite aid to higher learning.

"Due in large part to their high degree of technological literacy, today's medical students are a radically different audience than the students of 15 to 20 years ago," study co-author Dr. Frederick W. Kron, a former assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin and current president of Medical Cyberworlds, Inc., said in a University of Michigan news release.

"They are actually more comfortable in image-rich environments than with text," Kron added.

The findings were published online recently in BMC Medical Education.

Four out of five of those polled said that video games can have educational value, while more than three-quarters said they would be willing to engage in an online role-play in a virtual health-care setting alongside other student players, if it could help them meet educational goals, the survey found.

"Allowing students to step into the shoes of practitioners in different specialties, health-care settings and economic systems, in an immersive and authentic way, could help guide their decisions regarding which career choices would be the best fit with their values and personal characteristics," co-author Dr. Michael D. Fetters, an associate professor in family medicine and director of the Japanese Family Health Program at the University of Michigan, noted in the news release.

The study authors noted that simulation techniques and computerized mannequins have already become the norm in medical school, serving as a training tool to prepare students for various operating room scenarios. The survey's findings, therefore, could encourage schools to go even further in harnessing technology to improve the educational process, they added.

More information

For more on video gaming and education, visit the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College.