A new technology based on mixed reality allows medical students to practice diagnoses and treatments with holographic patients: they are not present, but they perceive them as real.
Medical student interns at a UK hospital have become the first in the world to train with holographic patients.
Using mixed reality headsets, students can treat virtual patients using technology that mimics medical situations, such as having asthma, and must make real-time decisions about their treatment.
The first training module presents a patient with asthma in hologram format, followed by anaphylaxis, pulmonary embolism and pneumonia. More modules in cardiology and neurology are being developed for student learning.
The new training method improves traditional resources for learning medicine, such as textbooks, mannequins and computer software, according to its creators.
The technology is called HoloScenarios and is available for licensing at medical institutions around the world. Its creators claim that it offers a cost-effective and flexible training resource that can renew traditional medical training.
The technology is based on the so-called mixed reality, which mixes the interactivity of virtual reality and the visual power of augmented reality, which allows the real world to be visualized with added graphic information.
This combination allows the user to fully enter a real environment, with the particularity of being able to interact with virtual elements.
“Mixed reality is increasingly being recognized as a useful method of simulator training,” said Arun Gupta, project manager, in a statement.
“As institutions become more familiar with it, the demand for platforms that offer utility and ease of managing mixed reality learning is rapidly expanding,” he adds.
As in real life
While operating with this technology, medical students share the same room and wear mixed reality headsets.
They move as if they were in real life at the same time that they intervene in the diagnosis of the virtual patient, which they perceive as if they were present in the same room.
In the treatment of the holographic patient, students are not alone. Through the headset, medical teachers can complicate patient symptoms to fine-tune learning.
These teachers can operate remotely, they do not have to share the same hospital space as the students. Even students and doctors from other parts of the world can participate in the session via the Internet.
The possibilities don’t end there: students can even participate in this practical medicine class from their electronic device, be it a smartphone or tablet.
That means realistic and secure immersive learning can be accessed, delivered and shared around the world, potentially making this technology mainstream in many medical schools around the world.
The new technology could also provide more flexible and cost-effective training without the heavy resource demands of traditional simulation, which can make immersive training financially prohibitive, its creators say.
This includes the costs of maintaining the simulation centers, their equipment, and faculty and staff hours to operate the labs and recruit and train patients.
Evaluation of results
In conjunction with the development and launch of HoloScenarios, the University of Cambridge is conducting research to assess student and patient outcomes using mixed reality, as well as evaluating the resulting products and efficiencies for institutions.
“Having a hologram patient who can see, hear and interact is really exciting and will really make a difference to student learning,” says Junior Dr. Aniket Bharadwaj, one of the first to test the new technology.
“Having a holographic patient that you can see and hear and interact with is really exciting and will make a difference in student learning,” he concludes.