Is Virtual Reality The Nurse Of The Future? [Future Of Health]

Is Virtual Reality The Nurse Of The Future? [Future Of Health]

Augmented reality interfaces are giving physicians new ways to access and interact with the information they need most.

  • 13 march 2014

When performing their life saving duties, it is critical for doctors to always be up to date on information about their patient and have the best tools at their disposal. In the analog realm this is fairly straightforward, however as hospitals adapt to the cutting edge of digital technologies, it is opening up an entirely new set of possibilities. In particular, augmented reality is being used in specialized situations to give doctors and nurses guidance during complex procedures and to display useful information where it is needed most.

As PSFK Labs’ explored our latest Future of Health Report, we identified a trend we called OR Overlay, which looks at the adoption of heads-up displays and augmented visualization techniques within the operating and exam rooms.  These new tools provide seamless access to relevant patient information or offer a more detailed map of surgeries in real-time, all without impeding line of sight. This access can eliminate mistakes and allow doctors and nurses more time to focus on their patients.

sony hmzt21

The HMZ-T2 from Sony is a head-mounted display unit that gives surgeons virtual X-ray vision using relayed images from an endoscopic surgical camera that is inserted through keyhole incisions. Each eye is independently shown a colorful 1280 x 720 pixel high-resolution image on a pair of miniature OLED panels. The brain combines the images to create a 3D effect. A team of surgeons can see shared images and work together on a less invasive laparoscopic surgery rather than performing traumatic open thoracic surgery. Each team member can flip an image relay so that the person working across from them can see their teammate’s point of view in their own headset and better assist them, as well as being able to view picture-in-picture relays from other internal camera angles.


In another example, the Munich-based Fraunhofer Institute and a team of surgeons from Yokohama City University Hospital in Japan have developed an augmented reality iPad app that allows surgeons to reveal hidden vessels inside organs while operating. In preparation for a tumor removal surgery a CT scan is performed and allows the team to map out the network of veins and arteries inside the organ being operated on. The visual information captured is converted into a detailed 3D image of the organ that surgeons can review on the iPad to plan possible approaches to the surgery. Using the camera view during the surgery, the tablet can be held up and pointed at the exposed area, revealing vessels overlaid in the proper positions and orientation to the patient’s body, regardless of the surgeon’s perspective. The simple interface of the iPad allows surgeons to easily pivot perspectives or change transparency without having to capture new images or slow down the procedure.

pristine health

Another way in which augmented reality is entering the operating room is Pristine, which is a remote healthcare technology company that has developed apps through which disparate team members can easily communicate using the head-up display and wearable device Google Glass to accomplish the range of tasks needed to improve patients’ health. The EyeSight and CheckLists apps allow wearers to stream video to fellow team members and create collaborative voice-generated to-do lists, respectively. These apps allow teams to work more efficiently with a range of specialists and healthcare providers, whether or not the team is spread throughout a specific hospital or across the globe. Similarly, shared checklists help team members to reduce double work and overlap in responsibilities without missing out on necessary services, from patient intake to post-op care. For example, community health specialists could confer with team members across a region, exchange images of patients’ symptoms in real-time and create lists of unique traits to check for at other sites.

With our partners Boehringer Ingelheim, PSFK Labs has released the latest Future of Health Report, which highlights the four major themes and 13 emerging trends shaping the evolving global landscape of healthcare. To see more insights and thoughts on the Future of Health visit the PSFK page and watch a summary report on Slideshare, here.

Contributed by: Andrew Vaterlaus-Staby

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