Mixed reality and the future of healthcare

Mixed reality has recently been used to facilitate a bowel cancer surgery operation. In a global first, Microsoft HoloLens technology was utilised to enable specialist bowel consultants based in BMI The London Independent Hospital and a hospital in Mumbai to offer their opinions to the operating consultant at the Royal London Hospital. We discuss how this technology may improve patient outcomes in the future.

Technology such as this can be used across a wide range of specialities, from kidney transplants to neurosurgery and so much more. It has great potential to improve patient results, especially for those who don’t have access to specialists near to their homes – or even in the country.

The Microsoft HoloLens could radically transform the planning of operations as well as opening doors to a new era of training. Trainee doctors from across the world will be able tap into the knowledge of specialists in other countries, as well as being able to take part in simulations of real life operations.

By embracing this new technology, specialists now have the ability to connect with people in a way that’s never been done before. These advancements offer a paradigm shift in the way the healthcare industry is currently looking after patients and can only enhance patient care.

Of course, these evolutions will never replace face to face interaction, but they enable better quality knowledge sharing across locations which has enormous positive potential.

HoloLens

Professor Shafi Ahmed, Consultant General, Laparoscopic & Colorectal Surgeon said: "We have truly integrated technology with healthcare. By bringing together specialists in real time from across the world and different time zones we have demonstrated that we can make surgery safer and ensure the best patient outcomes and democratise surgical practice."

This was not the first time that Professor Ahmed has pushed the boundaries of technology in healthcare. Dubbed 'the virtual surgeon', Professor Ahmed has pioneered the use of technology during surgery. In 2014 he used Google glasses to aid the learning of surgical students by transporting 13,000 people from 115 countries directly into the operating theatre, and more recently ventured into Virtual Reality using Google Cardboard and Snapchat Spectacles.

Sunny Chada, Executive Director at BMI The London Independent Hospital said: “This is the first time I’ve seen anything like this in healthcare – the closest thing I’ve seen is when my kids do virtual gaming! I’m delighted that two Consultants from BMI The London Independent Hospital were involved in a world first. We’re pleased to have such an inspirational man in Shafi Ahmed work with us. This technology could be used in any medical specialty. Today it was used for bowel cancer, but tomorrow it could be orthopaedics or renal medicine – so I’m expecting to see huge improvements in patient outcomes as we embrace technology in healthcare.” 

HoloLens close up
The healthcare industry is already on a digital journey with the introduction of Skype, telemedicine, and now virtual reality, which offers a new medium for communication. It has the potential to make healthcare more efficient, flexible and equitable and will continue to change and evolve over the coming years. Patients will be able to connect in a different way and will have the ability to communicate more easily from across the globe.

It’s clear that the future of healthcare is exciting. The continual collaboration of healthcare and artificial intelligence will effectively change the way we think, the way medicine is practiced and the way patients are looked after. Ultimately, these technological advancements will transform the face of healthcare as we continually look to improve our patients’ experience and outcomes.

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Consultants Shafi Ahmed & Hitesh Patel from BMI The London Independent Hospital use the Microsoft HoloLens to assist with bowel cancer surgery in this global first.

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