Augmented reality (AR) technology has the potential to improve and innovate healthcare delivery and training globally. Patients may receive improved levels of care and doctors engage in live interactive collaboration and training, regardless of geographic location.
Proximie, is a cloud-based AR platform that uses everyday technology – a pair of computers, tablets or smartphones with cameras – to connect surgeons and students anywhere in the world in real time. Logging on to the Proximie platform, one is able to remotely scrub-in to any clinical setting via live video feed and augmented interaction. Active communication, both visual, verbal and written, is possible via use of simulated hand signals, surgical tools and relevant information overlaid on top of the live surgical field, to provide a truly interactive and immersive experience in real time.
Proximie is currently being used to train surgeons remotely in low-income countries and conflict zones. These surgeons often struggle to obtain access to the specialized training they require, with limited resources, increasing surgical demand and clinical complexity within their patient population. The recent Lancet Commission on Global Surgery suggested that an additional 143 million surgical procedures are needed in low and middle income countries to meet current demands. A proportion of these further treatments may be successfully enabled by remote interactive collaboration using AR to support and train local surgeons directly. Through projects in remote areas of Peru and Gaza, local surgeons have been able to carry out complex surgical procedures with the support of expert surgeons in another part of the world who remotely scrub-in and assist them step-by-step through the case. This has benefitted patients who would not have otherwise had access to these life-saving and changing surgeries and improved their standard of care, helping to reduce morbidity and mortality in these areas.
Moreover, Proximie is being used in an educational context to teach medical students at Yale University Medical School (New Haven, Connecticut, USA), with positive feedback and results to date. This is also being further developed in ongoing educational and service improvement trials at the Royal Free Hospital, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and St Tomas’ Hospital (London, United Kingdom). Students benefit specifically from live interactive surgical teaching with a clear view of the operating field and superior levels of interaction and learning retention compared to being physically present in the theatre.
Using the simple and intuitive Proximie AR platform, access to surgical training is possible from any device with an internet connection, from anywhere in the world. Learning can begin from one’s own home or institution and reach all corners of the world where the local population may benefit form live surgical collaboration between specialists. Thus, Proximie may provide part of a complete telehealth solution to support healthcare systems, clinicians and patients worldwide, in an effective and sustainable way for the future.