Delivering quality healthcare through mixed reality
As the adage goes: The only constant is change. Nowhere is this more evident than in the field of healthcare. Outside of aerospace and defense, few industries drive adoption of new technology like healthcare. Thanks to advancements like Microsoft’s HoloLens technology, medical providers can harness mixed reality to improve the quality of patient care and overall experience.
Virtual reality in healthcare
The HoloLens platform from Microsoft delivers an augmented reality experience through a virtual reality (VR) headset. Microsoft refers to this experience as a “mixed reality.” The platform employs multiple sensors, advanced optics and holographic processing. This technology uses holograms to display information, blend it with the real world and can even create completely virtual worlds.
Microsoft sees broad adoption of the platform with the potential to inspire entirely new augmented reality experiences. The HoloLens platform has already made great inroads in the fields of design, data analysis, computing, gaming, medical imaging and healthcare. A recent collaboration between Microsoft and Case Western Reserve University enables medical students to safely interact with 3D renderings of the human body instead of cadavers.
Major challenges in healthcare
Many healthcare providers still depend on traditional technologies to interact with patients. For example, traditional methods of performing and recording results from CT and MRI scans present challenges mixed reality technology can solve. These imaging devices can cause claustrophobia and patient discomfort caused by the associated noise. Healthcare professionals require medical scans and records for detailed analysis, but loading and modifying the electronic medical records of thousands of patients is a cumbersome process.
Teams of medical professionals consisting of medical records specialists, pharmacists, nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers need seamless coordination with each other during a patient’s treatment. It becomes challenging for them to work together while relying on multiple devices for communication, to recall diagnostic charts and access other data.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having far reaching implications around the world, even for patient care. Check-ins for doctors’ offices, emergency rooms and hospitals have changed to reduce physical contact. The use of telemedicine services for routine screenings and doctors’ visits increased in 2020 by more than 50% from 2019. This is all in effort to control exposure to COVID-19, which can spread through physical and respiratory contact. Aside from COVID-19, research from the National Institutes of Health shows 80% of communicable diseases are spread by touch. Physical interaction can be greatly reduced through practical applications of mixed reality technology.
Mixed reality: working wonders in the healthcare industry
With Microsoft’s second-generation HoloLens technology, called HoloLens 2, several cutting-edge features stand to improve the patient experience. Let’s explore some of the ways these features empower medical professionals.
Contextual patient data visualization
In healthcare, every second counts. Mixed reality headsets are used to instantly provide relevant medical information to medical professionals at the point of care, enabling faster treatment in emergencies. Just being able to observe a patient’s vital signs without having to read screens or derive paperwork saves valuable time better spent on patient care. The adoption of mixed reality enables elderly patients to receive hospital-level treatment from the safety of home. Medical facilities benefit from this, too, as hospital beds are available for other patients in need.
HoloLens technology is also proving beneficial to patients who travel often for frequent medical appointments. This reduces time, saves money and limits exposure while still delivering personalized care.
Generally, mixed reality applications enable real-time interactions with medical professionals via hologram technology. It also enables healthcare providers to share information hands-free and record patient data in real time via a virtual dashboard. This advancement combines real-life video conferencing and projected holograms in facilitating the best possible coordinated care.
Holographic surgical planning
Mixed reality technology’s visual format provides virtual surgery intelligence (VSI) to healthcare providers that enables patients to see their imaging scans and better understand the level of complication in a surgical procedure. Mixed reality can also help reduce a surgeon’s response time and improve accuracy, thereby enhancing the patient care experience. For example, if a patient needs to undergo a complicated surgery, the surgeon can display diagnostic images to the patient with the help of the VSI feature of mixed reality. In this way, the medical team can discuss, plan and initiate a treatment procedure, thereby reducing response time and improving the quality of patient care.
On-site/remote surgery assistance
By using HoloLens technology, surgeons can have their hands free for surgery while using microphones and sensors to communicate with a surgical team in different parts of the world, making collaboration seamless. Mixed reality technology also expands on the adoption of robotic surgery, where a surgeon need not be physically present to safely operate on a patient anywhere in the world. These features, which employ simulations and information extraction, make mixed reality an invaluable asset in improving surgical performance and patient care.
These are just some of the notable advantages of Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality technology to demonstrate how healthcare is quickly evolving. These advancements make it feasible for medical professionals to hone their skills and attend hundreds of patients virtually while safely limiting the need for physical contact and travel. In addition, employing mixed reality technology enables seamless collaboration between physical and digital objects to deliver a better quality of treatment and patient experience.
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