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'Hologram patients' and mixed reality headsets help train UK medical students in world first

Learners put on mixed reality headsets and are immersed in a lifelike training scenario, overlaid onto their physical environment.
Learners put on mixed reality headsets and are immersed in a lifelike training scenario, overlaid onto their physical environment.   -   Copyright  Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and GigXR
By Nicole Lin Chang

Medical students in Cambridge, England are experiencing a new way of “hands-on learning” - featuring the use of holographic patients.

Through a mixed reality training system called HoloScenarios, students at Addenbrooke's Hospital, part of the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, are now being trained via immersive holographic patient scenarios in a world first.

The technology is being developed by Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the University of Cambridge and US holographic healthcare training provider GigXR.

Learners put on mixed reality headsets and are immersed in a lifelike training scenario of holographic patients and medical equipment, overlaid onto their real-world physical environment.

The system allows for students and instructors in the same room to see each other in real life, while interacting with a medically accurate holographic patient.

Instructors can adjust the difficulty of scenarios, and the immersive, lifelike setting allows students to see real-time improvements and the consequences of their interventions.

"Mixed reality is an excellent way to train," GigXR’s chief executive officer Jared Mermey said in a statement.

"It’s incredibly intuitive. We’ve put customers in apps like HoloScenarios and they 'just go' - the experience is instinctual because you simply use your hands and the holograms superimpose over the real world in a way where they look like the real devices, patients or anatomical structures".

The virtual simulations also eliminate the risk that a student’s mistake could harm a patient.

At the moment, students can learn how to diagnose and treat common respiratory conditions including asthma, anaphylaxis, pulmonary embolism and pneumonia.

Advanced cardiac life support and neurology scenarios are currently in development with GigXR partners Northwest Permanente PC and Michigan Medicine, and will be available later this year.

The new technology is aimed at providing a more affordable alternative to traditional immersive medical simulation training involving patient actors, which can demand a lot of resources.

Developers also hope the technology will help improve access to medical training worldwide.

"With HoloScenarios, we’re helping to evolve education from a mentorship-based model to one where students around the world can have equal access to top-flight expertise for mastering invention-based clinical skills," said Arun Gupta, Director of Postgraduate Education at Cambridge University Health Partnership.