When a patient is in the isolation room, it’s normally difficult to monitor their progress because of the increasingly complex COVID-19 operating procedures. Doctors from the Malaya Specialist Centre in Malaysia were interested in evaluating whether smart glasses could be used to limit the numbers of medical personnel attending patients in the neurosurgical ICU.
The research team used MEDCOM Vision software and Vuzix M400 Smart Glasses, a waterproof and dustproof device that is already being utilized in logistics, telemedicine, field service, and manufacturing.
The study showed that telemedicine delivered through smart glasses is a feasible and effective alternative for doing ward rounds on neurocritical care patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients also deemed the initiative highly positive, proving that new telemedicine measures can not only conserve personal protective equipment but also improve patient satisfaction in ICUs, operating rooms, and medical clinics all around the world.
During the study, a random pair of a Neurosurgery resident and a specialist executed virtual and physical ward rounds on patients. First, the specialist conducted the visit remotely using real-time audiovisual information from the resident, who was wearing smart glasses. Then, a physical ward round was done with the resident and specialist together. Finally, both rounds were compared in terms of intra-rater reliability.
Ten paired wards were performed on 103 neurocritical care patients. Nine out ten of them showed good to excellent consistency and one showed acceptable consistency. The alternative method also provoked wider user acceptance and higher satisfaction rates.
Vuzix, a public company with offices in Rochester, NY, Oxford, UK, and Tokyo, Japan, supplies smart glasses and AR technologies for the consumer and enterprise markets. This includes personal displays, wearable devices, and solutions for mobility. The company holds 166 patents and numerous IP licenses in the Video Eyewear field and has won Consumer Electronics Show (CES) awards for innovation for the years 2005 to 2019.
Vuzix smart glasses provide some of the best field service and vision-picking capabilities on the market. With a ruggedized mechanical design, the glasses are ideal for users working in harsh environments. The M400 Smart Glasses model, in particular, uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 microprocessor that enables a combination of voice and touchpad navigation for better control — hence why they were picked for the study.
Effective doctor-patient communication is essential for building a therapeutic relationship at the heart of medicine. The ultimate objective of any doctor-patient interaction is to improve the patient’s health and medical care.
In the 1950s to 1970s, most doctors considered it detrimental to disclose bad news to patients. The medical model has, however, evolved from paternalism to individualism. In the new communication model, information exchange is dominant. Decision-making tends to be shared and the relationship is mostly centered around the patient.
The Malaya Specialist Centre study showed that telemedicine, delivered in this case through a resident physician virtually connected to an expert, can produce higher satisfaction rates for patients.
This method of treatment also fulfills the three main goals of doctor-patient communication: Creating a good interpersonal relationship (the resident is physically present), facilitating the exchange of information (between the patient and both the visiting doctor and the specialist who are present thanks to the smart glasses), and include patients in the decision making (by allowing for real-time feedback while decreasing risks and protective gear costs).
The Future of Remote Medicine
Telemedicine has proven that it can play an important role in fighting viruses by allowing for distance multidisciplinary collaboration and remote mentoring. It can also alleviate the shortage of doctors (and experts in particular), help to avoid unnecessary trips to and from contaminated areas, and reduce the waste of gowns and protective equipment.
It’s important that remote guidance does not replace real-time guidance communication. While virtual reality is a great tool for training, augmented reality has, however, the advantage of overlapping the virtual and the real world by fusing video, audio, and annotation. During the study, one doctor was always physically present — yet benefitting from augmented information that made the experience easier and safer for everyone involved.
The telemedicine market was worth an estimated $134.4 billion in 2019 and is expected to generate a revenue of around $131.06 billion by the end of 2027, growing at a CAGR of 18.2% between 2020 and 2027.
Augmented Reality telemedicine will no doubt play an essential role in helping address the challenges brought by the COVID-19 virus and other epidemic scenarios, changing perhaps forever the way physicians provide care.
About the Author
Yisela Alvarez Trentini is an Anthropologist + User Experience / Human-Computer Interaction Designer with an interest in emerging technologies, social robotics, and VR/AR.