WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
During Covid-19 there’s been a huge shortage of PPE and doctors on the front line have been at the greatest risk of catching the disease, mixed reality technologies significantly reduce the risks.
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During the current Coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, billions of people around the world are all having to work from home and self-isolate, but if you are on the front line working in hospitals treating infected Coronavirus patients then isolating yourself is at best difficult and at worst impossible. Now though, after surgeons in the UK recently showed off how they’re able to conduct surgeries while working from home staff at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust have shown off how they’re using Microsoft’s mixed reality Hololense headsets to stay safe on the front line while still performing their duties in one of London’s most high risk hospitals.
Using HoloLens with Dynamics 365 Remote Assist and Microsoft Teams the doctors treating the patients were able to send a secure live video feed to a computer screen in a nearby room that let their teams see everything they were seeing while remaining at a safe distance.
The Trust, which includes Charing Cross Hospital, Hammersmith Hospital and St Mary’s Hospital, says using HoloLens has led to a fall in the amount of time staff are spending in high-risk areas of up to 83 percent. It is also helped significantly reduce the amount of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which has been in short supply since the pandemic started, being used, as only the doctor wearing the headset has to dress in PPE. Early estimates suggest that using HoloLens is saving up to 700 items of PPE per ward, per week, and that’s a huge saving.
Clinicians James Kinross and Guy Martin from the Trust have been working with Microsoft for a while but only started re-purposing Hololens for this new use case in March.
“In March, we had a hospital full of Covid-19 patients. Doctors, nurses and allied healthcare professionals providing ward care had a high risk of exposure to the virus and many became ill. Protecting staff was a major motivating factor for this work, but so was protecting patients. If our staff are ill they can transmit disease and they are unable to provide expert medical care to those who needed it most,” says Dr Kinross, adding, “In one week our hospital trust switched from being a place that delivered acute, elective care and planned treatment into a giant intensive care unit. We weren’t just trying to restructure an entire building, we were trying to redeploy and retrain our staff, while at the same time we had to cope with an ever-growing number of very sick people.
“We needed an innovative solution. I’ve used HoloLens before in surgery and we quickly realised it had a unique role to play because we could take advantage of its hands-free telehealth capabilities. Most importantly, it could be used while wearing PPE. It solved a major problem for us during a crisis, by allowing us to keep treating very ill patients while limiting our exposure to a deadly virus. Not only that, it reduced our PPE consumption and significantly improved the efficiency of our ward rounds.”
Rather than put users in a fully computer-generated world, as virtual reality does, HoloLens allows users to place 3D digital models in the room alongside them and interact with them using gestures, gaze and voice.
Using Remote Assist, doctors wearing HoloLens on the Covid-19 wards can hold hands free Teams video calls with colleagues and experts anywhere in the world. They can receive advice, interacting with the caller and the patient at the same time, while medical notes and X-rays can also be placed alongside the call in the wearer’s field of view.
“We’re now looking into other areas where we can use HoloLens because it is improving healthcare without removing the human; you still have a doctor next to your bed, treating you,” Kinross said. “Patients like it, too. They are interested in this new piece of technology that’s helping them.”
Kinross has also helped other departments use HoloLens, including intensive care, trauma and in surgery, where it is being used to overlay CT scans onto patients during operations.
HoloLens is also being used to teach students at Imperial College London’s medical school, after the Covid-19 pandemic led to the academic areas to close “practically overnight”, Kinross said. Students can use laptops and mobile devices at home to watch a live feed from lecturers wearing HoloLens and learn about a range of topics including anatomy, surgery and cardiology.
These projects form part of PanSurg, a global initiative established in response to the threat the Covid-19 pandemic poses to surgical patients and the people that look after them. PanSurg is a group of clinicians, surgeons and academics from Imperial College London’s Department of Surgery and Cancer and its Institute of Global Health Innovation.
Source: Imperial College