Much like enterprises are using more consumer technology (or consumer-like) technology, hospitals are also trying to figure out how shifts in user interfaces, voice recognition and other developments should make their way into their treatments. While the medical profession has a reputation for being somewhat stodgy, there are hints it is looking at bring some technology familiar from video games into the operating room.
Simon Karger, head of the surgical and intervention sector at Cambridge Consultants, a product design firm, explained that the number of doctors who have grown up playing video games means that today’s professionals are more interested in technology like motion control or conducting surgeries using novel and even virtual techniques.
Karger noted that the Leap motion controller is a great example of the type of consumer tech finding a home in the OR. “Gesture control makes sense. You can’t use a keyboard or a mouse once you scrub in, so firstly at best it’s slow and clunky asking a nurse to operate the computer, and at worst you can’t even get to it,” Karger said.
That’s not good for the patient because it takes time, but it also means there’s an extra body in the OR, usually a nurse who is there to “drive” the computer. The gesture recognition afforded by Leap can free up a nurse and lets the doctor control the computer without breaking sterility rules. Technologies such as voice control have been slow to catch on because there are generally a lot of people in an operating room and many surgeons like to work with music, Karger said.
The Leap and a plethora of related systems and technology in the OR will change how doctors interact with their patients and even with each other. Karger estimated that a Leap-like controller could be used within the OR in two to three years given that any device would need approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as the backing of one of the medical device companies.
Gesture control isn’t the only consumer tech that might make it big in the OR. Augmented reality — either on a computer screen or via a wearable device like Google Glass — is another technology with lots of promise. Doctors are already looking at screens when they are doing laparoscopic surgery, but with better augmented reality more information about the inside of the patient could be displayed.
With the right scans of the individual patient, you could give doctors the ability to have a 360-degree view from the laparoscopic camera inside the patient by layering on more imagery to build out what’s out of the camera’s line of sight, suggested Karger. And while those screens are larger and it may not make sense to try to put that much on the smaller Google Glass screen, doctors are trying out the wearable in surgery today.
Christian Assad-Kottner, an interventional cardiologist and currently the Chief Medical Officer at PRNIZE, conducted a surgery using Glass to share his viewpoint to colleagues. He envisions Glass as a type of teaching aid, letting doctors consult on surgeries that residents might be doing or letting a specialist consult without being in the same room.
There are a variety of regulatory and privacy concerns with Glass — plus not all hospitals have the Wi-Fi needed to let them transmit the information — but Assad is clearly excited about the technology. Karger is a bit more reserved about the potential for wearables in the OR, but he can see why more and more doctors are embracing novel technologies to help them work.
“The biggest challenge isn’t the regulatory environment or the tech,” Karger said. “With the exception of technical hiccups this is doable stuff, but it needs to demonstrate clinical outcomes and to do that it needs time and to be adopted by surgeons. I do think it will be adopted because surgeons coming out of school have spent life on PlayStations and Wiis, so the novel UI is familiar to them.”