National pilot explores Microsoft HoloLens 2

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, and a small group of trusts, have worked with NHS Digital as part of a national pilot to test Microsoft HoloLens 2 and Dynamics 365 Remote Assist.

The technology, a mixed reality headset, uses multiple sensors, advanced optics, and holographic processing to provide healthcare teams with a digital overlay of information to create a mixed or augmented view.

Initially introduced by trusts during COVID-19, including Alder Hey Children’s and Imperial College Healthcare, to conduct virtual ward rounds, the tool means one clinician would make the rounds and others could join remotely. The technology enabled clinicians to communicate hands-free and share information in real time.

At Torbay and South Devon NHS FT, the first pilot project is taking place at its Breast Care Unit, where the tool is being tested to support nurse-led dressing clinics. Clinical specialist nurses send a high-resolution video feed to consultants, in real time, to get immediate feedback and advice on a patient’s needs. Additionally, consultants are able to add digital markers and annotations live on to the video, to guide the nurse’s view where useful. The trust said it replaces the current system of emailing static images to consultants.

The trust has also been using VR to complement staff training and for patients who are seriously ill, undergoing treatment or are end of life, have been offered immersive experiences for therapeutic support.

Miss Jacqueline Rees-Lee, Consultant Oncoplastic Breast and Plastic Surgeon at TSDFT, said: “Extended Reality Technologies are undoubtedly going to play a big part in patient care, and staff and healthcare education in the future. The Hololens 2 mixed reality headset will help us develop digital technology to bring benefits to our patients and staff in the hospital and out in the community.

“We are a busy service and cannot always be in the breast care unit, this technology allows me to assist other clinicians and support our support our nursing staff from anywhere. I am able to talk and interact with patients and so am able to gather crucial information throughout the appointment process. It can also help with business continuity, for example, if a clinician is self-isolating due to COVID-19. The system works over Microsoft Teams and is so easy to use and secure. In terms of security, we always get patient consent but everything is encrypted and no information is stored.”

Nick Peres, Head of Digital Technologies at TSDFT and Advisor for Immersive Technologies at Health Education England, added: Our Digital Futures Lab at TSDFT is an innovation space, supported by Health Education England, that enables us to explore, share and understand the potential that digital technologies can bring to healthcare settings. Staff can directly experience and learn about a range of technologies, including augmented and virtual reality, and creatively explore how they can be used to support healthcare delivery, enhance patient and staff experience and deliver education and training.

“It is wonderful to have the HoloLens 2 pilot project as part of the Digital Futures work as we always want to be sure there is real value being added with any new technology. The HoloLens works alongside the current platform we use for virtual collaboration and videoconferencing, but it is paramount that those using new devices and equipment feel comfortable and confident in doing so.”

Over the past year, HTN reported on the introduction of the technology in Kendall to connect care homes to GPs. The tool was introduced in October 2020 for 60 care home residents who have skin conditions or are bedfast. A nurse using the Microsoft HoloLens 2 can then connect with a GP without the need for the resident to attend the GP practice.

At Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, the technology has been used since 2017, with the trust noting by using the tool it reduced the amount of time staff spend in high-risk areas by up to 83 per cent.