How hologram tech is empowering surgical teams worldwide 

How hologram tech is empowering surgical teams worldwide 

Jahn Otto Andersen, CTO at HoloCare, talks to us about the potential of hologram tech and how it could make surgeries smarter and safer for both professionals and patients.  

According to data published by the British Medical Association, over 7 million people in the UK are currently waiting for elective surgery – with 2.87 million patients waiting over 18 weeks and 401,537 patients waiting over a year.  

In Europe, the situation is not much better. According to OECD iLibrary, the median waiting time for hip replacement ranged from a comparatively speedy five to seven weeks in Denmark, Hungary and Italy, to 35 weeks in Estonia, where 90% of patients are waiting more than three months for surgery.  

Although the mismatch between demand and capacity is not a new problem for healthcare systems, today’s crisis is markedly different to pre-pandemic years. A combination of staff shortages, ageing populations and COVID-19 backlogs have created an acute need for new solutions and technologies. It’s the field of surgery where much of recent innovation has been concentrated: and with good reason. Surgery is a critical part of healthcare delivery and is often the first line of treatment for conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and traumatic injuries. 

How surgery is planned and executed is failing to deliver the best outcomes for patients and clinical teams. Inefficiencies in the preparation stages and outdated technologies in the operating theatre are exacerbating delays, piling pressure on clinicians and putting patients at risk. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in industrialised countries nearly half of all adverse events in hospitalised patients are related to surgical care; at least half of these are considered preventable. 

But the status quo is about to be disrupted. As scientists, medics and technologists collaborate to bring the latest tech innovation to the hospital floor, we are approaching an era of smarter, safer surgery and empowered clinical teams. 

Healthtech and surgery 

The rise of extended reality (XR) technologies has ushered in a new wave of healthtech innovations, which have impacted the way that clinical teams train, prepare and collaborate. Surgery has been a huge benefactor of this innovation: XR offers a new 3D view of clinical data, equipping surgical teams with the knowledge to precisely simulate individual surgeries.  

Hologram tech: a new dimension 

While there is lots of innovation in the surgery itself, an oft-overlooked area of innovation is what happens before surgeons set foot in the operating room. 

Before an operation can take place, surgical teams gather together to develop the best plan for how to approach the surgery. Termed a multi-disciplinary meeting (MDT), these allow clinicians to familiarise themselves with an individual’s medical data and surgery. But MDT meetings are incredibly expensive: bringing together a large team of experts – an average of 14 attendees, including 10 consultants – costs an average UK hospital £2,745,082 yearly.  

In MDT meetings, clinicians must make high-risk surgical decisions based on a patient’s 2D medical scans, such as CT or MRI. Unsurprisingly, each clinician will formulate their perspective on what the patient’s anatomy looks like, meaning disagreements are bound to occur – prolonging the meeting, delaying surgery and increasing the likelihood of mistakes.  

Mixed and Augmented reality technology offers a unique solution to this challenge. Norwegian start-up, HoloCare is among the pioneers of applied XR tech, having developed surgical software that offers clinicians a new dimension to their surgical planning. By creating 3D holograms from a patient’s medical scans, the software provides clinicians with a more realistic anatomical view of a patient’s anatomy. Moving, rotating and expanding these holograms allows surgeons to see the organ from any angle, supporting them to develop precise surgical plans.  

The benefits of using holograms for surgical preparation include: 

  • One clear, shared anatomical 3D visualisation reduces ambiguity and dispute between surgeons – helping them reach a preferred approach to surgery faster and saving time and money. 
  • Experts from diverse medical and surgical specialities can virtually collaborate, improving medical education and knowledge sharing, while reducing the costs of having to drive/fly an expert in. 
  • Patient-specific visualisations help surgeons plan the best possible approach to an individual’s surgery – for smarter, safer surgery with fewer preventable complications. 
  • Surgeons can practise operations as many times as they like – giving them confidence and helping them prepare for complex surgical procedures and emergencies, all without entering the operating theatre. 

The future of surgery? 

While mixed and Augmented Reality technologies are not new, they are only just beginning to impact the surgical space. As these technologies continue to advance, and more clinicians explore these holographic solutions, it is clear that mixed reality-led surgical innovation offers something new and valuable to healthcare professionals.  

With health systems stretched paper thin, and professionals at breaking point, we are at a turning point with healthcare delivery. However, healthtech and MedTech solutions are driving a future with better patient care. The digital and real worlds will continue to intersect, and holographic tech will play a pivotal role in informing how surgical teams better plan and prepare for operations: reducing patient risk, saving time and ultimately helping reduce colossal waiting lists.  

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