The coming together of medics and technologists has shown how a mixed reality system can allow medical practitioners to view and effectively interact with virtual replicas of patients’ organs, bones and body parts.
The new technology comes from Birmingham City University’s Digital Media Technology Laboratory (DMT Lab). Although the system is still in development it has, as tests have shown, enabled medics to interact with virtual models of organs and bones. The interactive experience also changes models of patient data. This is achieved by the medic through the use of freehand movements.
This type of augmented reality technology could lead to new developments by medical software companies to assist medics in their pre-operative assessments (testing out medial procedures), as well as providing new learning models for medical students.
There are also hardware changes to come: augmented reality headsets, goggles, and contact lenses are the types of innovations that will let medical users project digital information over the real-life image they see. For example, drawing blood from the veins of a patient can be made easier with the help of vein scanners, designed to ease the process.
Importantly, with the Birmingham City technology, the augmented reality system also tells medics what might happen if procedure B is selected over procedure A; or if treatment 2 was used in place of treatment 1. This is made possible through the input of real patient medical records. The types of experiences are not only surgical; medics can also test out what might happen to patients long-term where harmful addictive substances are taken.
The basis of the system is advanced motion detecting sensors plus new developments with freehand interaction and the application of mixed reality software. The lead developer, Dr Ian Williams said to his university’s website: “We are developing this system as a platform to allow medical professionals to interact with genuine patient data and manipulate it by hand to educate and inform patients.”
The researcher adds: “The real advantages this brings are being able to visually demonstrate parts of the anatomy, using virtual models which can be customized for each patient and show how they have been impacted by lifestyle choices or how they may be changed following treatments or surgery.”
A possible further development with the system is with the creation of customized models that can be shared with the patient. This could, if felt appropriate, increase the engagement of patients’ with intended treatments and raise understanding. There may be some resistance from some in the medical field with the biggest obstacles relating to education, cultural change and acceptance.
These notwithstanding, augmented reality could become a driving force in the future of medicine.
How technologies like VR, wearables, and AI are increasingly part of mental health management
More than ever, “the illusion that all therapy must be delivered in person is now fading,” says one expert.
One particularly brutal side effect of the global pandemic is the staggering number of people currently working through mental health difficulties.
Feelings of loneliness and isolation are particularly pervasive and widespread, in turn leading to stress, anxiety, and depression. Even now, months in, mental health numbers aren’t exactly improving.
October 10 was World Mental Health Day and MobiHealthNews marked the day by taking a look at how technologies like VR, wearables, and AI have changed our approach to mental health management — especially now. Adding their own research to the discussion, Frost & Sullivan also shared five key technologies that are currently supporting mental health management.
From their own research, Frost & Sullivan estimates that there have been “global investments of nearly $1.4 billion in 2020 for health-tech companies in the mental health management sector, with about 75% of it directed to the U.S. market.”
As Chandni Mathur, Digital Health Senior Industry Analyst at Frost & Sullivan explains that while we’ve seen increased instances of mental health struggles during the pandemic, we’re seeing better access to treatment through technology.
“The silver lining from the pandemic has been the realization of the benefits and the deployment of various digital health solutions to manage the burden of chronic conditions. Consequently, investors have been extremely bullish on digital health, and this area has seen record investments in the first half of 2020 alone.”
The five key technologies Frost and Sullivan identified that are currently supporting mental health management are:
- The widespread adoption of telehealth and video consultations for therapy sessions. F&S reports that in 2020, “the telehealth market is likely to experience a tsunami of growth, resulting in a year-over-year increase of 64.3% in the United States.”
- The use of mobile apps and portals for patient engagement.
- Data analytics, resulting from the use of the aforementioned digital solutions, that are then deployed into actionable insights for better, more personalized patient care.
- The use of Artificial Intelligence — in the form of chatbots — for screening and to connect patients with the appropriate psychiatrist or therapist.
- Virtual Reality, in conjunction with traditional face-to-face therapy as part of a gamification approach to treatment, where patients virtually confront situations they struggle with.
“The illusion that all therapy must be delivered in person is now fading – and although there are benefits to meeting a therapist in person, a more hybrid model is starting to be seen as the norm now,” explains Polly Haselton, clinical partnerships manager, and cognitive behavioral therapist at Oxford VR.
“We will continue to see investments in telepsychiatry and healthcare applications that can collect patient data on their condition and outcomes,” elaborates Mathur.
“There is high demand for more holistic and scalable platform-based solutions. The ability for vendors to demonstrate clinical evidence and address the full spectrum, including most complex mental health conditions, will be critical for success.”
Of course, it’s important to remember that there are no one-size-fits-all approaches when it comes to using tech for mental health treatment.
“With every patient having a unique condition, social status and requirement, personalized digital treatment plans will be important.”
IoT + Data = Healthcare Intelligence
In the equation IoT + X = Intelligence, what role can patient and asset data play as the X factor?
The essential premise of the Internet of Things — that a device can pick up vital information and relay that for processing through a Wi-Fi connection — is systematically shaving off inefficiencies in healthcare. This is especially welcome news in the United States where healthcare spending rose to a crushing $3.6 trillion in 2018, which amounts to nearly 18% of the overall economy.
IoT in healthcare roughly falls into two buckets: Data from patients and data from institutional assets. Here’s where judicious implementation of an IoT strategy helps:
Effective patient monitoring
Consumers are already familiar with the Apple Watch or FitBit to monitor physical activity, heart rate, sleep patterns and more. Physicians can rely on condition-specific monitors to deliver more relevant data. Monitoring of glucose levels from diabetics through an IoT-enabled wearable can help track insulin needs and gain a better handle on preventing complications. Such monitoring also empowers patients — they can read levels through a related mobile app — and gives them greater ability to participate in their healthcare strategy.
Decreases post-op costs
IoT-enabled wearables/sensors can monitor patient health after they have returned home from major surgeries and automatically alert the hospital if certain vitals look worrisome. Wearable and implantable stickers monitor heart rate. Smart bandages can keep an eye on wounds and watch for infection. Such remote monitoring of fairly routine vitals eliminates the need for the patient to be tethered to the hospital for extended periods after surgery. Remote IoT-enabled monitoring also enables tele-health where physicians can remotely work with patients who report problems. Pre-screening like this has the potential to decrease the need for readmission.
Tracking medical assets
IoT-enabled sensors on medical devices — and even staff — can help track assets more efficiently. Staff can bring X-ray machines and traveling IV units into service as needed, instead of wasting time tracking them down. Such data also helps hospitals forecast device utilization so they can better plan for need. Hospitals can also restrict access to specific drugs by allowing remote IoT-based monitoring of these medicines. Room sensors can read ID badges and only allow approved personnel into sensitive areas.
IoT can spit out data not just about patient health — but also that of machines. If a refrigerator holding critical medicines is about to break down, a sensor connected to the unit can alert maintenance who can proactively attend to the machine before it goes out of order. Healthcare organizations must keep equipment running smoothly and IoT enables them to do so.
Reduce ER wait times
By IoT-enabled tracking of assets such as hospital beds and aligning them with patient needs healthcare organizations can dramatically decrease wait times in the emergency room. Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City has used this strategy to cut wait times for half of its 59,000 annual ER patients.
While IoT is a powerful tool in healthcare, it must also play by the same rules that govern other devices and systems. IoT-enabled healthcare devices go through elaborate certification processes and conform to country-specific patient privacy laws. Since IoT in healthcare will often involve sharing and relaying of sensitive patient health information (PHI), organizations need to encrypt data and remove all identifiers before they can work with them at scale.
Skyrocketing healthcare costs demand efficiencies at scale. IoT and patient or asset data can deliver such prescriptive price reductions while still maintaining high care standards.
North America’s first digital hospital launches second generation Command Centre
Do the words ‘command centre’ make you think of huge rooms with NASA scientists, expertly making sure a Mars rover lands safely on the Red Planet?
What if a command centre could revolutionize the patient experience in one of the busiest hospitals in North America, bringing a new standard of patient-centered, quality healthcare?
Combining Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and professional expertise, Humber River Hospital in Toronto has launched the world’s first clinical analytic applications, in partnership with GE Healthcare Partners (GEHC).
Displayed on large-screen monitors at HRH’s 4,500 square-foot Command Centre, these four new applications or analytic ’tiles’ use “standardized early warning systems, predictive analytics, real-time information from multiple digital systems,” alongside the professional expertise of experienced nurses.
Canadian Patient Safety Institute and Canadian Institute for Health Information data shows that 1 in 18 hospital stays in Canada involved at least one harmful event. This addition to the Command Centre means quicker alerts for clinical staff, and better protection for patients with conditions that make them vulnerable to risks of adverse events, or adverse outcomes.
The Humber River Hospital is the Greater Toronto Area’s (GTA) largest acute care centre, serving a catchment area of more than 850,000 in the city’s northwest. Opening in 2015, it was also North America’s first fully digital hospital.
Just two years later, HRH opened the first generation of its Command Centre, a data-driven ‘mission control’ offering real-time insight on patient flow, via advanced algorithms and predictive analytics. As a result, the hospital has “unlocked” the equivalent of 35 additional beds — and the ability to treat thousands of additional patients.
Get an inside look at HRH’s Generation 2 Command Centre:
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