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The scariest thing you never want to hear come from an automated recording from your primary care physician’s office are the words “we are closed indefinitely until things clear up”.
Where are you supposed to go? Who are you supposed to call? And there’s no way you’re going to the nearest hospital to rack up a $3,000 bill just for stepping foot through its emergency room doors.
That’s why you want to make sure your physician has the appropriate technology so that you never truly are out of reach for medical care.
But with medical imaging technology continuing to evolve rapidly in today’s digital age, why is it, for decades, we haven’t seen the equivalent speed in the methods by which images are displayed?
And why is it when this “rapid” change came about, it was the direct result of a global pandemic that out of nowhere six months ago, has claimed the lives of over 116,000 people in the United States, with over 2 million confirmed cases?
The global outbreak of the coronavirus has not only affected our reality as we know it, but also our augmented reality. Valued at $850 million, the augmented reality market is already changing the ways in which clinicians see data and their patients. Expected to reach $5.1 billion globally by 2025 (or even sooner thanks to COVID-19), the augmented reality industry has already begun disrupting the healthcare industry.
Augmented reality (AR) allows for digital information to be superimposed and integrated into our physical environment (augmented). From technologies like Google Glass and Microsoft Hololens to Zenerchi’s open-source physiology simulation visualization, the healthcare industry certainly has shifted from our physical reality to augmented reality.
We all hope we live to see the day where we hear the words “we’ve discovered the cure for cancer”. Unfortunately, that day will never come unless we are all willing to accept the truth—it will take something much bigger than us to help us reach that destination.
It is for this reason, that depth perception becomes an invaluable component to medical examination when we are talking about AR. The ability to observe and explore vital organs and blood vessels in our current technological capacity can no longer be done with accuracy. Only with AR technology can this help keep our healthcare industry flourishing and intelligent.
COVID-19 has exploited hundreds of thousands of weaknesses and vulnerabilities in our global infrastructure, while simultaneously revealing one necessary truth: it’s time to adopt the technology before us or be swallowed up whole—literally.
And companies aren’t taking chances anymore. We’ve seen company after company goes under—even some we never thought would, and why? Because of an inability to accept the truth. That in order to survive in today’s digital age, you must inject digital infrastructure into an already existing physical infrastructure. It’s the only way.
We saw this immediately following the COVID-19 outbreak when Utah-based biotech company Zenerchi published its AR-simulated educational video that augmented what COVID-19 looked like (before any company out there was able to wrap its minds on what was going on).
Utilizing the Zenerchi platform, the company was able to produce both the content and video in a matter of days that included detailed micro-and molecular biology, using its custom COVID protein viewer for the world to see and comprehend, so that COVID is more than just a word.
Back in May, National Bioskills Laboratories, a leading provider of surgical training facilities, unveiled its medical-grade remote physician training platform in response to the travel restrictions COVID-19 placed upon surgeons who traveled for educational purposes or patient consultations.
The platform, National Bioskills Live Connect™, combines high-resolution video live streaming from medical devices with real-time, collaborative audio-conferencing capabilities specifically designed for physician skills-training.
The solution is capable of streaming multiple video outputs from surgical cameras and medical equipment (such as C-arms or ultrasound machines) simultaneously.
“We can’t accept lag times, fuzzy images, or unsecured technology,” Douglas Hampers, the company’s CEO says. “So we designed a medical-grade system to be 100% reliable with razor-sharp images and real-time audio, and top-tier security that is HIPAA compliant.”
But Dr. Hampers and National Bioskills Laboratories aren’t alone in this battle, as the company adds serial entrepreneur and visionary Jon Fisher and CrowdOptic to the mix.
The company uses cloud-based software and proprietary hardware with Intel components from Fisher’s company, which is an augmented reality firm using algorithms and real-time sensor data from electronic devices to enhance security, social media sharing, and advertising.
Fisher, a known visionary behind Bharosa, a leading provider of fraud prevention and authentication-security solutions that was acquired by Oracle for a reported $50 million in 2007, continues to grow his digitally adaptive entrepreneurial portfolio by the year.
His company’s technology has been implemented in everything from sports to medicine to government. It was also the first patented solution for wearable technologies, such as Google Glass.
As for NBL, the company was founded by board-certified physicians and educators with the desire to improve patient outcomes by using CrowdOptic’s state-of-the-art facilities to help train doctors on proper techniques when working with new medical implants.
“With its partnership with CrowdOptic, NBL can now reach a nearly unlimited number of physicians, healthcare workers, and sales teams,” Fisher shared with us. “NBL now has the ability, thanks to Live Connect™, to take this technology and empower anyone to create their own teaching environment anywhere in the world.
Now ORs, surgical centers, and home offices can set up their own teaching studio for an unlimited number of people to learn and interact remotely. The more people that can improve their education, the better the outcomes for all patients will be.”
And here we are today, thirty years later after telemedicine came about, where cloud computing, deep-level analytics, and artificial intelligence (A.I.) control how “accurate” our information technology systems generate information. Yet, despite our technological advancements, the outbreak of COVID-19 taught our world a very valuable lesson--we weren’t technologically ready to go “digital”, despite our ability to do so.
With federal regulations and stay-at-home orders in place, COVID-19, according to Dr. Hampers, made holding large-scale teaching events essentially impossible.
“Doctors will now have to train in much smaller groups and the number of doctors that can be trained will be very limited. Virtual training will allow for more accessibility to this type of training for all those physicians that could not attend, nor didn’t want to take the risk of contracting the virus by having to travel to a laboratory-type event.”
But more importantly, the ability to watch experienced surgeons in the OR in realtime helps an enormous number of doctors who have never performed a certain type of surgery or perhaps need to “brush up” on the proper techniques for that particular surgery.
And Fisher is extremely optimistic about the direction physician care is heading:
“With the rapid adoption of this technology, we believe the next five years will see enormous advancements in video analytics as it relates to the medical industry. CrowdOptic and NBL will help lead that change.”
With Fisher and CrowdOptic involved, the National Bioskills Laboratories system compresses video files and transmits them securely via enterprise technology protocols for optimized speed, reliability, and scalability, with additional security provided by OneSpan's Intelligent Adaptive Authentication.
In this portable “plug-and-play” system, all the necessary hardware components are shipped in a small, protective case to anywhere in the world, and can be set up at the host location in less than 20 minutes by non-technical staff.
Host users need only a power supply and an internet connection to live stream to remote attendees who log in to a secure web page.
Previously, the challenge of educating the industry on adopting remote-training solutions has been overcome, thanks to the lingering effects of COVID-19.
“In the past, we needed to get the industry to understand that the medical product companies would experience better adoption of the devices and much better outcomes for patients, due to the better overall training of the physician,”
Fisher added. “COVID-19 has essentially eliminated these obstacles.”
Put aside the video games folks, because if you truly want to see the success that AR can bring to our world, it starts with our fundamental health.
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but in a time where COVID-19 effectively shut down our world for over six months, AR technology is the only thing saving our day.