By Gavin Wheeldon, chief executive of Purple
By Gavin Wheeldon, chief executive of Purple
Technological advancements in the healthcare industry are at the forefront of improving care for patients and the efficiency of the network within which they operate.
The latest craze in Pokemon Go is one such recent advancement that is having a surprisingly-positive effect on the health of patients.
A hospital in Michigan, USA, is using the app to get children out of bed, exercising and interacting with other patients.
AR apps are slowly creeping into the mainstream and, if more hospitals pick up the benefits, patients could see a real increase in help and information
As an augmented reality game, Pokemon Go allows users to access the app via their smartphones GPS and camera. Players search for Pokemon creatures and ‘Pokestops’, collecting items as they go. It can give patients, especially those in long-term care, a reason to get out of bed.
Other hospitals, it should be noted, have banned Pokemon Go as members of the public arriving at A&E and on wards is not something they want to encourage. In fact, it has the opposite effect on improving efficiency, knowledge and diagnosis.
Other types of augmented reality are slowly creeping into the mainstream and, if more hospitals pick up the benefits, patients could see a real increase in help and information.
Augmented reality is the blending of virtual reality and the real world. Currently just two hospitals in the UK have augmented reality apps for their patients.
Visitors can download the app and then find out about hospital news and services, simply by pointing their mobile device at visual triggers placed throughout the site.
At the beginning of the year the NHS ran a blood donation advert that allowed members of the public to give a virtual blood donation via an iPhone, thanks to augmented reality.
Improving medical students’ knowledge, helping doctors with care procedures, and keeping patients informed can only improve efficiency, knowledge and diagnosis
Participants were able to see ‘blood’ flowing down the tube from their arm and onto the screen in front of them. As the blood bag filled up, the virtual donor could see a sick patient getting better. If that’s not going to make you give blood, I don’t know what will.
Other AR apps in the healthcare sector are helping doctors deal with medical procedures.
The Philips Intellivue monitors vital signs during operations. The information just pops up in front of the surgeon, when they need to see it.
Other products, such as Accuvein, help doctors to locate veins for blood samples and IV insertion.
More reliable than a doctor’s eye, they can reduce the pain of multiple attempts.
Other companies are developing systems that help students with their studies by bringing it all to life. ARnatomy, for one, is hoping to take the boredom out of revision by creating visuals that can help students understand the skeletal system.
Improving medical students’ knowledge, helping doctors with care procedures, and keeping patients informed can only improve efficiency, knowledge and diagnosis.
The first step to better healthcare is a truly-connected network of doctors and diagnosis.
At the end of last year, the Government championed access to free WiFi in hospitals as being of prime importance to improve medical treatment and patient experience. It is hoped that £1 billion from a technology fund will improve a patchy hospital service, and, in turn, limit paperwork and errors, as well as aid doctors and nurses to pinpoint potential issues.
It was argued that mobile clinical systems and tablets, which are being used in some hospitals, allow data to be shared and acted upon far more quickly than through the old-fashioned paper trail.
It’s unsurprising that the NHS is keen to find a way of increasing efficiency. Without improvements they are losing money - and lots of it.
WiFi and augmented reality will be seen as just minor advancements if developers and doctors get to grips with some of the more-exciting technology such as using virtual reality in a medical setting
More than 12 million GP appointments are missed each year in the UK, costing in excess of £162m annually. Another seven million outpatient hospital appointments are missed each year, costing an average of £108 per appointment in the most-recent figures.
The cost of sending out appointment reminders via WiFi is relatively small compared to the cost of missed appointments.
While there are initial set-up issues for departments that need to link the right patient to the right data, this is minor when you consider the manpower involved in telephoning people or sending out paper reminders.
Operational stress could be radically reduced in departments such as A&E if it had the network to remind patients to only attend if it is a genuine emergency, not just a flu jab. Anything that keeps departments running smoothly and avoids patient build-ups can only be a good thing.
The Government also hopes that hospitals will be paperless and digital by 2020.
That said, WiFi and augmented reality will be seen as just minor advancements if developers and doctors get to grips with some of the more-exciting technology such as using virtual reality in a medical setting.
Virtual reality is a computer-simulated reality and still very much in its infancy. But it is being developed in the hope that benefits will be felt by both by medical students and patients.
The argument is that if students can learn to do procedures and operations in a VR world, they not only get hands-on experience, but there is no risk to any patients. It makes the perfect learning tool.
It is an exciting time for technology in healthcare. The benefits to patients and staff are manyfold, and as professionals continue to push the boundaries, the sky really is the limit
Other areas where it has similar benefits, include paramedics, who could get real-time training in a simulated accident or emergency.
In April The Royal London Hospital tried out this hardware and performed the first VR operation, with medical students given headsets so they could be fully immersed in the experience, and, more importantly, learn from the procedure.
Dr Ahmed, who led the operation, believed the use of VR and AR would help to educate medical students, both at home and those in poorer countries where access to such opportunities might otherwise be impossible.
It is an exciting time for technology in healthcare. The benefits to patients and staff are manyfold, and as professionals continue to push the boundaries, the sky really is the limit.