How to Use Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to Improve Healthcare Experiences?

The technology is ready – however the technology alone is not enough to increase adoption and pervasive usage. What to do about it? Keep finding new problems – try to solve them and embed the tech to enable / solve that problem.

In healthcare this is possible and only imagination could help innovate the patients experience. At some hospitals in Europe and USA, they hired Chief Patient Experience Officer to look into this. From my research, I will share some of the pain points, problems and challenges that could be used by technology like virtual reality and augmented reality in improving patients experiences.

Healthcare equipments and tools have gone through massive innovation in terms of size, shape and sanity. Including operating procedures now focusing on non-invasive types of surgery to minimize post surgery recover and speed up the healing. However, if you are going for surgery or under the knife, regardless whatever the doctor going to tell you, what is your feeling like? To me, I still have sheer amount of nervousness and the negativity in my mind starts playing like movie Insidious!

Other than tele-medicine, using powerful 5G internet and distant, I am sharing how VR and AR change the landscape and patients experiences in healthcare space.

Virtual reality diagnostics. Virtual reality is often used as a diagnostic tool in that it enables doctors to arrive at a diagnosis in conjunction with other methods such as MRI scans. This removes the need for invasive procedures or surgery.

Virtual robotic surgery. A popular use of this technology is in robotic surgery. This is where surgery is performed by means of a robotic device – controlled by a human surgeon, which reduces time and risk of complications. Virtual reality has been also been used for training purposes and, in the field of remote telesurgery in which surgery is performed by the surgeon at a separate location to the patient.

Virtual reality for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The affected person wears a pair of virtual reality glasses or head mounted display (HMD). This contains two tiny monitors which display images of the source of their disorder, e.g. a battlefield. The rationale behind this is that exposing someone to the source of their condition combined with relaxation skills will enable them cope and adapt. As they are exposed to this over time the level of threat is removed which then decreases their anxiety levels and feelings of anxiety.

Surgery simulation. This is another branch of medicine where virtual reality is used to great effect. This technology is used to train surgeons in a range of surgical procedures, e.g. knee arthroscopy but without any risks. The trainee surgeon can be taught new and potentially dangerous techniques in an environment where they are able to make mistakes and learn from these.

Here I am sharing some videos of Augmented Reality, I try to write it, I think the video sends better message! 😉

Here’s another video on Augmented Reality done in Bern, Switzerland. FYI, Bern is the home of Albert Einstein “Einsteinhaus”! 😉

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Pain Points in Healthcare Patients Experience

When was the last time you visited a hospital? Now, was it easy to get a parking spot? Did you walk far to get to the main entrance? Did you find the way to the entrance? Ok, I don’t want to be picky here. In most hospitals, those are the pain points – well it is understood hospitals are big building and it is a life saving space; hence the focus is on the people that need quick responses and medical attention. 

Say you are the patient. You survived the emergency responses and now you are in the ward. Life is pretty easy over there. Did you sometimes feel, it is “nice” to be at the hospital? You sort of forget and accepted the fact that not much you can do. Your mind started to feel free, light body and you tend to smile a lot more. That’s a different experience altogether as soon as you get home. 

I remember some years ago, I had a major tonsillitis infection. I couldn’t talk and it was very painful. I had to hospitalized. The doctor and nurses were very kind. They look after me day and night, making sure I had enough antibiotics to quickly kill those bacterias and remedy the infection. Slowly the pain subsided and I become “normal again” – after 7 days. 

The first 2-3 days were “nice” – I was like a little baby, I sleep and sleep. Doctor or nurses came to had me antibiotics and did some check up – off they went. The next few days after that, I started feeling bored so I wanted to walk around. Talk to some people or walk down to have some air. Here’s when I realised the hospital is not meant for warded people. It gets very annoying after a while. 

Some of my pain points were:

  1. When is the doctor coming to check me up? The doctor will only visit each patient under his care once a day – usually. The problem is you do not know where is he going to come. If I go down and then he come, he won’t come back again. 
  2. What’s my recovery status? The things they wrote on that board were barely readable. The nurses wouldn’t share much and the doctor will only said, “Everything ok”. I want to know details. Next reply I get is, “Don’t worry.”
  3. The doctors and nurses shift updates among them is unclear. The new shift tend to ask me (and other patients) the same information. Wouldn’t the EMR (Electronic Medical Record) got that? Why wouldn’t they update the information there? Is it difficult to use?
  4. I walk over to some wards where I observed some patients that were difficult to move around, I pity those nurses having to gather 4-5 of them to lift or carry this patient to sanitary. Shouldn’t the hospital find ways to improve this experience?
  5. Another was the urine bag – big 2 litres bag were a stinky hassle for the nurses during draining out the urine. They had to use plastic jugs and walk them to the toilet and flush it. Don;t the hospital have some kind of collector machine or other means to make the experience better?
  6. I received some X-ray images and they ask me to take home. What do I do with it? I was told those images could be harmful – why do you let me take it back? Wouldn’t it be better to save it in the hospital in digital copy and dispose (recyle) it somewhere?
  7. Another that pissed me off when I got sick – is different doctor on routine will tell you different diagnosis, interpretation and recommendation. So which one should I follow? Some nurses had their own “judgement” and over ride the doctors prescription. How to tell the nurses overstepped the border? What if those patients were senior citizen and without any medical background or someone close to spot that gap?

Did you know that most doctors will not recommend their own close family members the hospitals that they provide services? That’s very telling. The healthcare system and experiences could be so much better and improved upon. 

Better experiences, better healing and the care could be given focusing on the critical patients instead of feeling overwhelmed by huge amount of patients. More time for themselves too! I will share more how to make some impactful and significant improvement in some areas of the services in other posts.

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