Immersive Technology for Complex Systems Training

"Virtual Reality offers the potential for an extremely engaging and immersive experience that can present highly effective opportunities for learning and development”.
- Nigel Whittle, Head of Medical & Healthcare

The Challenge

Effective training requires immersion in a realistic environment where appropriate skills can be developed. However, it can be hard to replicate some situations for training purposes, for example, hazardous or complex environments.

It is vital to measure the effectiveness of training procedures in order to define the overall value in the training programme. Often companies employ ‘train-the-trainer’ structures to cascade knowledge & skills, and it is imperative that the quality and reach of training is measured.

Our client required a cost-effective training system to ensure specialist procedures were followed, which operated in a complex environment and produced a measurable outcome.

The Approach

Complex systems require complex training procedures, and immersive systems are a powerful means of generating realistic training environments that can be accurately configured to meet the client’s needs.

Through close observation of our client’s training methods, we captured their domain insight and evidence-based content. We then applied our software and imaging capabilities to develop an immersive virtual training environment using Oculus Rift.

Our ‘interactive training world’ uses a dynamic structure to measure effectiveness through the trainee’s choices and decisions, which can then be used to tweak the system to improve its effectiveness.

The Outcome

Our modular VR training approach provided the client with a flexible, validated training solution that was straightforward to use, and can be deployed at scale.

A direct training approach has also enabled the client to improve their training content based on end-user feedback, providing invaluable insight into the key requirements for specific training scenarios.

We demonstrated the value of conducting training in realistic VR environments, especially those that were complex or hazardous, and how those systems could be set up to provide useful feedback.

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Commercialising Medical Innovation

“Medical Device development can be incredibly challenging. Our experience in taking early prototypes through to manufacturing has enabled some incredibly innovative companies to achieve their business goals”.
- Richard Allen, Head of Manufacturing

The Challenge

Our client PneumaCare, a University of Cambridge spin-out, had developed non-contact technology for the measurement of lung function, which did not require the patient to make forced expirations.

Their highly innovative approach used structured-light analysis to assess 3D movement of the chest.

PneumaCare asked Plextek to take their early prototype system through to manufacture, including regulatory approvals.

The Approach

We realised that development of a commercial system would involve the solution of numerous technical issues, including stereoscopic camera alignment, effect of lighting conditions, reliability and calibration.

We undertook an initial technology feasibility study, conducted an IP search and a manufacturing assessment, and recommended the most cost-effective development approach.

We assembled a multi-disciplinary team experienced in medical device development, and worked closely with PneumaCare’s founders to realise their ambition.

The Outcome

Since launching this product, PneumaCare has won numerous medical device innovation prizes and received praise from leading Respiratory and Paediatric specialists.

The Thora-3DI™ device achieved CE mark approval in Europe in 2012, and is being used in hospitals in the UK, France, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Middle East, Hong Kong, China and Malaysia.

Following the first FDA 510(k) clearance granted in March 2016, PneumaCare is now working with its strategic partners to make the device available in the US and in other markets.

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Real-time Monitoring of Patients in Challenging Environments

"A thorough understanding of the technical issues faced in developing a novel wireless network inside a hospital environment was critical to the practical success of this project”.
- Nigel Whittle, Head of Medical & Healthcare

The Challenge

Our US-based client wanted to develop an ambulatory electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor that could record and transmit information from adult patients undergoing treatment in a hospital.

Their vision was to monitor vital signs of ambulatory patients in real-time and then transmit this data via the standard wireless medical telemetry frequencies used in hospitals.

However this poses a significant challenge as indoor wireless networks within hospitals are notoriously unreliable due to reflective surfaces, solid walls, beds and wards, which all cause interference with existing band signals.

The Approach

We determined that the system would need to reliably transmit accurate readings of heart rate determination, R-wave detection, ECG filtering and arrhythmia recognition.

In order to ensure complete reliability, our approach was to incorporate multiple antennas to ensure communication with the patient-worn telemetry packs.

A new bespoke system was developed which included radios, signal processing, software and a new secure band level for our technology, ready for adoption by hospitals.

The Outcome

The final product was a system with sufficient bandwidth to reliably monitor up to 189 patients at any given time, providing a holistic healthcare approach by allowing multiple patient monitoring.

We were able to support our client throughout the entire development cycle, from initial concept to final manufacture, providing a custom-made service that exactly matched our client’s needs.

The system was approved by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the USA, and over one third of all US hospitals are now routinely using this monitoring system.

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Wearable Tech for early Detection & Prevention of Hearing Damage

“The ability to self-monitor will allow earphone manufacturers to provide equipment with a built-in safety feature that will provide significant reassurance to their customers”.
- Thomas Rouse, Lead Consultant, Medical & Healthcare, Plextek

The Challenge

NIHL and tinnitus have traditionally been a problem for those working in noisy environments, such as rock musicians, soldiers or construction workers, but it is also spreading fast among the music-loving younger generation.

Early intervention can be effective in mitigating the worst effects of loud music, but existing technology for testing for NIHL is generally only available in hospitals or specialised clinics.

The Approach

Plextek has developed an innovative wearable demonstrator system for early detection of NIHL, potentially allowing the subject to take immediate remedial action and thereby prevent the condition.

The technology sends auditory stimuli to the ear through standard ‘off-the-shelf’ earphones, then analyses the resulting Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR), producing a fingerprint of the ABR.

Changes in this fingerprint are predictive of the onset of hearing disorders (including ‘hidden’ hearing loss that cannot be detected by standard tests).

The Outcome

No existing technology is currently available to enable the facile detection of such damage before the person develops overt symptoms, such as the characteristic buzzing in the ears that indicates tinnitus.

The company’s solution, when integrated into commonly used in-ear consumer earphones or headphones, will remove the clinical barrier to access and could play a game-changing preventative role in the treatment of NIHL.

In addition to general consumer use, it would particularly benefit those working within high-risk environments such as building sites, the military, or music venues.

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Advanced Technologies in Healthcare

Nigel Whittle - Head of Medical & Healthcare

By: Nigel Whittle
Head of Medical & Healthcare

21st March 2019

4 minute read

Home » Healthcare » Page 2

Some of the biggest changes in the practice of medicine and healthcare over the past 70 years have resulted from improvements in the way diseases and illnesses can be diagnosed and studied. Innovative technologies now allow doctors to discover increasing amounts of detailed information about both the progression and treatment of disease, allowing new treatment options and care pathways.

The most significant developments which are likely to change the face of medicine over the next few decades include:

  • Enhanced self-management for patients and the elderly through technology support systems to empower understanding and control of conditions.
  • Improved patient access to health service infrastructure through utilisation of remote care and monitoring systems.
  • Further developments in medical imaging and the application of Artificial Intelligence systems to effectively analyse and diagnose conditions.
  • Precision medicine that can target medical interventions to specific sub-groups of patients based on genomic data.
  • Robotic surgical systems that can conduct exquisitely precise operations in difficult-to-reach anatomical areas without flagging or losing concentration.

Self-Management for Patients

Day-to-day physiological monitoring technology, driven particularly by the spread of a variety of consumer wearable devices with communication capabilities, has the ability to collect and integrate health information from a variety of sources, both medical and consumer-based. The next generation of wearables is likely to significantly blur the division between technology lifestyle accessory and medical device, as reliable non-invasive sensors for the measurement of blood pressure, blood sugar, body temperature, pulse rate, hydration level and many more become increasingly implemented within these devices. The provision and integration of these derived complex sets of data has the potential to provide valuable information, that enabling a holistic approach to healthcare. The US FDA is currently working closely with industry to facilitate the introduction and effective use of these more advanced devices.

Enhanced Patient Access

In the UK, the NHS has brought high-quality medical services to every citizen, but often at the cost of long waits for visits to the doctor when a patient is concerned about his health. The introduction of improved access systems, including video-conferencing facilities, electronic health records and AI-powered chatbots, promises to be a powerful and game-changing move. In particular, chatbots systems such as Babylon Health or Ada can provide a highly accessible medical triage procedure, which can alleviate the pressure on over-worked doctors in GP surgeries, and allow those doctors to focus on patients with more serious conditions. With increasing sophistication, these chatbots can potentially provide accurate diagnostic advice on common ailments without any human interaction or involvement. The key concern is, of course, ensuring that the algorithms operate with patient safety foremost, which requires fine tuning to balance between over-caution and under diagnosis.

Medical Imaging and Artificial Intelligence

Following admission to a hospital, a key element of modern medicine is the use of imaging systems for clinical diagnosis, and the main challenge for doctors is to interpret the complexity and dynamic changes of these images. Currently, most interpretations are performed by human experts, which can be time-consuming, expensive and suffer from human error due to visual fatigue. Recent advances in machine learning systems have demonstrated that computers can extract richer information from images, with a corresponding increase in reliability and accuracy. Eventually, Artificial Intelligence will be able to identify and extract novel features that are not discernible to human viewers, allowing enhanced capabilities for medical intervention. This will allow doctors to re-focus on their interaction with patients, which is often cited as the most valued aspect of medical intervention.

Precision Medicine

The current paradigm for medical treatment is changing through the development of powerful new tools for genome sequencing which allows scientists to understand how genes affect human health. Medical decisions can now take account of genetic information, allowing doctors to tailor specific treatments and prevention strategies for individual patients.

In essence, precision medicine is able to classify patients into sub-populations that are likely to differ in their response to a specific treatment. Therapeutic interventions can then be concentrated on those who will benefit, sparing expense and often unpleasant side effects for those who will not.

Robotic Surgery

Currently, robotic surgical devices are simply instruments that can translate actions outside the patient to inside the patient, often working through incisions as small as 8mm. The benefits of this are clear in terms of minimally invasive surgery, and by allowing surgeons to conduct the operations in a relaxed and stress-free environment. At the moment the robot does not do anything without direct input, but with the increasing development of AI systems, it is likely that in 10 or 15 years, certain parts of an operation such as suturing may be performed automatically by a robot, albeit under close supervision.

What will new technology mean for healthcare?

It is fiendishly difficult to predict the impact of innovative technological advances on medical practice and patient care. However, the overall message is clear – improvements in front end technology will allow patients to have a greater responsibility for their own personal health and well-being. Increased access to medical practice through innovative and efficient mechanisms will allow doctors to focus their time on the patients identified as suffering from more serious illnesses. Highly trained AI systems can then complement the doctors’ prowess in identifying and diagnosing particular diseases. Finally, treatment options will be highly tailored to individual patients and their conditions, increasing the cost-effectiveness of treatment.

However, each of these technology developments comes with associated costs and challenges. Not least, new technology could fundamentally change the way that medical staff work, requiring new skills and mindsets to effectively transform medical care into a radically new approach.

For an informative chat on how Plextek can assist with your Healthcare technology project, please contact Nigel at healthcare@plextek.com

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Some of the biggest changes in the practice of medicine and healthcare over the past 70 years have resulted from improvements in the way diseases and illnesses can be diagnosed and studied. Innovative technologies now allow doctors to discover increasing amounts of detailed information about both the progression and treatment of disease, allowing new treatment options and care pathways.

The most significant developments which are likely to change the face of medicine over the next few decades include:

  • Enhanced self-management for patients and the elderly through technology support systems to empower understanding and control of conditions.
  • Improved patient access to health service infrastructure through utilisation of remote care and monitoring systems.
  • Further developments in medical imaging and the application of Artificial Intelligence systems to effectively analyse and diagnose conditions.
  • Precision medicine that can target medical interventions to specific sub-groups of patients based on genomic data.
  • Robotic surgical systems that can conduct exquisitely precise operations in difficult-to-reach anatomical areas without flagging or losing concentration.

Self-Management for Patients

Day-to-day physiological monitoring technology, driven particularly by the spread of a variety of consumer wearable devices with communication capabilities, has the ability to collect and integrate health information from a variety of sources, both medical and consumer-based. The next generation of wearables is likely to significantly blur the division between technology lifestyle accessory and medical device, as reliable non-invasive sensors for the measurement of blood pressure, blood sugar, body temperature, pulse rate, hydration level and many more become increasingly implemented within these devices. The provision and integration of these derived complex sets of data has the potential to provide valuable information, that enabling a holistic approach to healthcare. The US FDA is currently working closely with industry to facilitate the introduction and effective use of these more advanced devices.

Enhanced Patient Access

In the UK, the NHS has brought high-quality medical services to every citizen, but often at the cost of long waits for visits to the doctor when a patient is concerned about his health. The introduction of improved access systems, including video-conferencing facilities, electronic health records and AI-powered chatbots, promises to be a powerful and game-changing move. In particular, chatbots systems such as Babylon Health or Ada can provide a highly accessible medical triage procedure, which can alleviate the pressure on over-worked doctors in GP surgeries, and allow those doctors to focus on patients with more serious conditions. With increasing sophistication, these chatbots can potentially provide accurate diagnostic advice on common ailments without any human interaction or involvement. The key concern is, of course, ensuring that the algorithms operate with patient safety foremost, which requires fine tuning to balance between over-caution and under diagnosis.

Medical Imaging and Artificial Intelligence

Following admission to a hospital, a key element of modern medicine is the use of imaging systems for clinical diagnosis, and the main challenge for doctors is to interpret the complexity and dynamic changes of these images. Currently, most interpretations are performed by human experts, which can be time-consuming, expensive and suffer from human error due to visual fatigue. Recent advances in machine learning systems have demonstrated that computers can extract richer information from images, with a corresponding increase in reliability and accuracy. Eventually, Artificial Intelligence will be able to identify and extract novel features that are not discernible to human viewers, allowing enhanced capabilities for medical intervention. This will allow doctors to re-focus on their interaction with patients, which is often cited as the most valued aspect of medical intervention.

Precision Medicine

The current paradigm for medical treatment is changing through the development of powerful new tools for genome sequencing which allows scientists to understand how genes affect human health. Medical decisions can now take account of genetic information, allowing doctors to tailor specific treatments and prevention strategies for individual patients.
In essence, precision medicine is able to classify patients into sub-populations that are likely to differ in their response to a specific treatment. Therapeutic interventions can then be concentrated on those who will benefit, sparing expense and often unpleasant side effects for those who will not.

Robotic Surgery

Currently, robotic surgical devices are simply instruments that can translate actions outside the patient to inside the patient, often working through incisions as small as 8mm. The benefits of this are clear in terms of minimally invasive surgery, and by allowing surgeons to conduct the operations in a relaxed and stress-free environment. At the moment the robot does not do anything without direct input, but with the increasing development of AI systems, it is likely that in 10 or 15 years, certain parts of an operation such as suturing may be performed automatically by a robot, albeit under close supervision.

What will new technology mean for healthcare?

It is fiendishly difficult to predict the impact of innovative technological advances on medical practice and patient care. However, the overall message is clear – improvements in front end technology will allow patients to have a greater responsibility for their own personal health and well-being. Increased access to medical practice through innovative and efficient mechanisms will allow doctors to focus their time on the patients identified as suffering from more serious illnesses. Highly trained AI systems can then complement the doctors’ prowess in identifying and diagnosing particular diseases. Finally, treatment options will be highly tailored to individual patients and their conditions, increasing the cost-effectiveness of treatment.
However, each of these technology developments comes with associated costs and challenges. Not least, new technology could fundamentally change the way that medical staff work, requiring new skills and mindsets to effectively transform medical care into a radically new approach.

For an informative chat on how Plextek can assist with your Healthcare technology project, please contact Nigel at healthcare@plextek.com

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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