PaleBlue Participation in HIMSS 2018

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Augmented and Virtual Reality for Doctors and Patients
Image Credit: PaleBlue

PaleBlue has participated in the 2018 Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Conference in Las Vegas, joining over 40,000 health information technology professionals from 50 countries gathered in one place, at the same time, to see and learn what is happening in the world.

PaleBlue has demonstrated its latest developments for Healthcare and launched the Augmented Reality X-Ray Toolset. This application can be run on any mobile phone or tablet and it allows patients or medical professionals to view MRIs and CT scans right on top of real body parts (like a forearm). This allows the users to show their scans in real time – directly on the patient which leads to better and easier explanations, comparisons, and understanding. We asked one of the exhibitors how the users could benefit from this and he gave us an example: “Imagine a doctor having the ability to show and explain a CT scan of a damaged wrist (as an example) on top of the actual patients wrist using his cellphone. The doctor can show any angle of the scan by simply moving his phone.”

Our mobile-based Augmented Reality X-Ray Toolset (commonly referred to as PaleBlue Vue) app was handed out to users without any instructions. These untrained users were able to look at their own MRI and CT scans in 3D using their own smartphones allowing them to see the scan superimposed and integrated into their own body. When we asked for feedback, people said that it is easy to use, simple, fast to learn, and a fantastic tool to help in the communication between doctor and patient.

But how can one really make use of Augmented and Virtual Reality in Healthcare?

The good thing is that most of the technical developments and solutions are helping the Healthcare industry, but the great thing is that these advanced innovations can be used in many – if not – all major industries. Basically, the goal of the conference is to bring all the cutting-edge technologies, new solutions, and business trends (notice we did not say just for the healthcare industry) to solve some of the biggest information and technology challenges. We’re glad to share our findings with you.

At this conference there were products from 1,300+ companies with promises of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), machine learning, integration and of course interoperability to name a few. Below are some of the trends that we observed, these can be found across all industries.

1) AR and VR are Usable Tools – As equipment and techniques become more complicated, users (doctors, nurses, etc.) may not have the knowledge or resources to fix problems in a timely manner, moreover those with the expertise are often hours or days away. This leaves a big gap in “expertise”. While the industries are seeing some benefit from things like video calls, video training, and using digital manuals; these are nothing when compared to the potential of AR and VR tools. In industries such as utilities, telecoms, manufacturing, and engineering where there is a large number of “distributed workforce of remote workers”, the value of AR is already being established and used. Being able to scale organizational expertise through remote support and training is key in many industries where veteran workers are becoming uncommon.

With Augmented Reality, non-technical workers can create highly interactive instructions, training materials or service and support documentation, streamlining the process for new and existing employees. For instance, healthcare companies are already building AR tools that can be used in the operating room for surgical training. Even in the educational fields, teachers can use augmented reality to create more immersive and collaborative learning experiences in the classroom.

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2) Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Artificial intelligence and machine learning technology are sweeping most sectors and healthcare industries, are no exception. Partnerships between healthcare providers and technology developers drew notice from innovations that use AI, machine learning and related technologies to improve healthcare and other applications. The massive vendor exhibitor halls were packed with companies offering machine learning and AI products, giving attendees a chance to browse through hundreds of solutions geared towards documentation improvement, better workflows, safety, patient engagement, financial analytics, privacy and security, business intelligence, and many more.

3) The Patient Experience –There are many products, such as simulators, that are used by healthcare professionals for learning new techniques, practicing certain procedures, or just good old fashioned practicing. We noticed that a number of companies, like us (maybe “like ours”, are promoting products that are resulting in better care, better training for patients, and safety. We see VR products that are being used for pain management (pain is reduced when the brain in immersed in VR), Physical Therapy (allowing patients to practice movements with a set environment), Therapy (allowing patients to face their phobias as an example), and educational (able to calm patients by showing them medical issues in an atmosphere that they understand). We were even able to show our new PaleBlue Augmented Reality X-Ray Tool set and how it works with MRI and CT scans on the actual patients body with the use of a simple smartphone. The show just confirmed that Augmented and Virtual Reality is much more than just a new form of entertainment, it is increasingly being used by patients as well as providers.

4) Usability – You can research anything on the internet. At HIMSS, it is one of the few places were we can talk (literally “face to face”) with our colleagues, show off new products, get feedback, and compare it to the industry trends. We tested one of the biggest trends that we saw at the show: USABILITY. To test this, we handed out our mobile-based Augmented Reality X-Ray Tool set (commonly referred to as PaleBlue Vue) app to users without any instructions. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The point is that modern products are great, have neat features, and are usable. One does not need to have a PhD or to be a programmer – all one needs is the apps on a phone. It is true, it does not matter how great a program is, if a tool is too difficult to use, no one will use it.

From analyzing the key trends presented at the event, we are able to conclude that big changes are happening, and healthcare and other industries will continue to adapt to new expectations, regulations, and technologies.