Dr Shafi Ahmed will carry out surgery live-streamed in virtual reality, a move experts hope will build healthcare more equitable and help medical training
This Thursday afternoon, Shafi Ahmed will lean over a patient and begin a delicate operation to remove cancerous tissue from a male patients bowel. He has performed such procedures many times before. But this time it wont be only his surgical squad who are in the room with him the world will be there too.
Showing from 1pm the approximately two-hour long procedure at the Royal London Hospital is the worlds first operation to be streamed live in 360 -degree video, allowing medical students, trainee surgeons and curious members of the public to immerse themselves in the medical event in real time.
A cancer surgeon at Barts Health NHS Trust, Ahmed believes the approach could attain healthcare more equitable, improving the training of surgeons the world over. With internet connections becoming better, smartphones get ever cheaper and merely a pair of lenses and some cardboard needed to make a virtual reality headset the costs, he says, pale in comparison to the expenditure of students travelling abroad to train. It is actually quite cost effective, he said.
Shot use two 360 -degree cameras and a number of lenses arranged around the theater, the operation can be viewed through the VR in OR app, utilizing a virtual reality headset that is likely to be paired with a smartphone. Those who do not have a headset can watch the video live online.
While videos showcasing surgical procedures have been around for years, Ahmed believes the new approach is more than a mere gimmick. The technology, he argues, brings a valuable new feature to education, letting viewers to focus not just on what the surgeon is doing, but also on what other members of the team are up to. There is likely to be noise, there will be the immersive factor so that will add different layers of educational value, he added.
George Hanna, professor of surgical sciences at Imperial College, London is cautiously optimistic about the benefits of the approach. If this technology allows the transfer of knowledge and abilities[ over] a wider range and in an easier route that would be very beneficial.
But he is quick to add that, compared with existing approaches for sharing scenes from the operating theatre, the new technology offers more of an upgrade than a revolution. It is a good video and broad broadcast with interactive[ possibilities ], he told, stressing that the operation itself is real rather than virtual.
It is not the first time that Ahmed has led the style in embracing modern technology in healthcare. As co-founder of the healthcare company Medical Realities( which will be streaming the operation in collaboration Barts Health and 360 -degree video experts Mativision ), he believes virtual reality, augmented reality and games all play a role in training medical students: two years ago he streamed a live operation using the augmented reality system, Google Glass, permitting viewers to ensure the procedure from a surgeons point of view.
But the new 360 -degree video, says Ahmed, offers a new, immersive approach, allowing users to assure beyond what the surgeon is looking at. Among the developments he envisages, Ahmed is keen to add graphics to the raw footage to provide additional information during the operation, as well as taking questions from those viewing the procedure.
[ During an operation] I am teaching people, talking to them, there is communication going on so itll be just an extension of that, he told. Whats more, in three to five years haptic devices could boost the experience further, he added. Companies are genuinely working on various gloves or bodysuits and devices so that it can replicate touch and feel, he told.
Such technologies, said Ahmed could be a boon to health care. But he added, the role of patients in agreeing to take part should not be forgotten. Ultimately, it is about the operation, about[ the patient ], about his cancer care and that has to be the priority for everyone, he said. The fact that patients have agreed to do this before with the Google Glass and again, it is quite reassuring and quite humbling.
Read more: www.theguardian.com