Microsoft HoloLens headsets used to connect remote patients to metro doctors

Once known only for immersive games, mixed reality is now being used to connect patients in remote parts of Australia to specialist doctors hours away.

Microsoft HoloLens is a mixed reality holographic computer, worn like a headset, which allows the user to see their physical environment covered by various programs.

Bairnsdale Regional Health Service successfully trialled the headset in the remote Victorian north-east town of Dargo, connecting patients to specialists in Melbourne via a holographic consultation room.

The nurse wears the headset and is guided by a physician who can assess the patient more thoroughly than during a regular telehealth appointment.

The trial included specialist consultations in nephrology, post-operative examinations and urgent consultations with a general practitioner.

HoloLens allows a nurse to identify areas of concern for a specialist.(ABC Gippland)

Better health care

Nephrologist and Telecare’s Chief Medical Officer, Christopher Sia, has seen Dargo resident Lorraine Paul use the HoloLens on several occasions to consult with her about her kidney issues.

He said technology enables doctors to provide better quality health care.

“It makes me feel like I’m in the room with the patient and the nurse acts as my eyes and ears,” Dr. Sia said.

“HoloLens gives very good resolution, very good quality images, and is also more mobile than a standard webcam.”

He said it was important to accurately assess people’s fluid status by examining their legs for any signs of fluid overload, which was easier to do through HoloLens.

Microsoft HoloLens Christopher Sia
Dr. Sia says any technology that allows quick, quality access to specialist care is beneficial. (Source: Darryl Torpy)

Ms Paul had already traveled over an hour for a telehealth appointment in the nearest regional town of Bairnsdale.

“With HoloLens it’s a lot easier because you pick a special day and you don’t have to go anywhere,” she said.

Dargo Bush Nursing Center nurse Sarah Carr said technology has made her feel more confident and supported in her work.

“It allows us to identify areas of concern or interest that the GP or specialists would like to look into,” she said.

“Having someone specialized, experienced on the other end seeing what I see makes a huge difference to my treatment and care.”

East Gippsland will benefit

The Bairnsdale Regional Health Department has purchased 12 HoloLens units to distribute to bush nursing centers in Dargo, Cann River, Gelantipy, Swifts Creek, Buchan and Ensay, as well as select hospitals and aged care facilities.

Microsoft doctor Nick Woods said the technology should improve access to specialist healthcare in remote areas.

A view of a country road with a pub to the left.
Dargo has a population of around 100 people. (ABC Gippland)

“I see this as another example of how we can better connect patients and the community without them having to make that 4.5 hour trip to Melbourne for a specialist consultation,” Dr Woods said.

Dr Sia said travel time was often a barrier for people in need of specialist care, causing them to avoid seeking treatment.

“It is important that we catch the disease early rather than delaying care and allowing these presentations to become more serious and having to deal with more serious complicated diseases along the way,” he said. declared.

Cost advantages

Bairnsdale Regional Health Service chief executive Robyn Hales said HoloLens was budget-friendly, costing around $5,500 per unit.

“If we can get patients using it on a very regular basis, reduce the movement of people, reduce the number of ambulances having to go out and pick up patients, that provides really fast care, which is a significant cost saving. “, she said.

The health service is currently collaborating with a Melbourne-based university to research how HoloLens can be used for a range of diagnostic tools, including stethoscopes and EKG monitoring.

“I think there are opportunities for other regional and remote parts of Australia to think about this technology,” Dr Woods said.

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