UK Doctors Use HoloLens to Reduce Exposure to COVID-19
Andrew Wheeler posted on June 30, 2020 |
Microsoft HoloLens is being used to remotely transmit critical information on coronavirus patients.
(Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
(Image courtesy of Microsoft.)

As Americans brace for the possibility of a second devastating wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that may hit in the fall, anxiety from social distancing measures and the fear of catching a life-threatening flu are as palpable as the air we all breathe in this country.

Should countries prepare for a second wave?

It depends on where you are, but the fear of repeating the rapid contagion that beset the world earlier this year is relatively high. It seems like people are sick of wearing masks and exercising social distancing in some cases, and the media’s message is often changing and sometimes unclear. But most people are taking the right precautions. If there is a second wave in any country, hopefully the shock of the first wave of sickness will have prepared them with a reactive infrastructure to better fight off the virus.

The second wave of course means that the medical community will have to continue to fight using whatever means is at their disposal. Sometimes, that includes technology.

In fact, a few hospitals in London are testing the use of Microsoft HoloLens to keep exposure among doctors to a minimum during procedures with infected patients. If the program is successful, it may spread throughout the UK courtesy of the country’s National Health Service.  

Doctors are wearing the HoloLens to capture images and audio during patient examinations. The data is shared with colleagues nearby using video conferencing courtesy of Microsoft Teams. This reduces exposure as well as the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). During the first wave of the crisis,spikes in new patients infected with the virus mean tthat PPE gear was badly needed.

The program was implemented by colorectal surgeon James Kinross at St. Mary’s Hospital in London. The idea for the program came about through Kinross’s previous work on surgical applications for HoloLens. When COVID-19 hit, Imperial College cut research to concentrate resources on treating sick patients.

Bottom Line

St. Mary’s Hospital in London is one of four facilities in Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust that is testing HoloLens to reduce exposure to COVID-19. According to Microsoft, which has been analyzing the data from the four facilities, staff using HoloLens are reducing their exposure to the virus by 83 percent.

There are drawbacks to using the HoloLens. The protective equipment worn by doctors was affecting the efficacy of sensors on the HoloLens and required modification. Connecting to the NHS network required some annoying finagling to comply with stringent data governance guidelines.

But the positives are pretty straightforward: doctors can add participants remotely to conversations, pull up medical records and X-rays, and reduce sound to keep communication quiet and confidential.

In the next few weeks, Kinross will be starting a formal trial to gather data to present to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and will be advocating for the program’s expansion.

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