UK children's hospital deploying HoloLens, Surface Hubs for surgical teams

By Dave Muoio
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Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and NHS Foundation Trust will be rolling out HoloLens mixed reality headsets to support its operational theater, according to a recent release from Microsoft.

Alongside the technology company and Black Marble, a software design and consultancy firm, the hospital will be developing an app for the technology to help surgeons better access information about their patients during an ongoing procedure.

“Imaging a patient’s heart from the inside and from the outside is absolutely essential,” Rafael Guerrero, a cardiac surgeon at Alder Hey, said in a statement from Microsoft. “I have to visualize that 3D view in my head in order to do this operation. You can display those images on a screen in the operating theatre sometimes, but it’s not easily accessible; and I can’t leave in the middle of an operation to go get more information about my patient.”

The partnership’s goal is to build an app for the headset that will overlay ultrasounds, CT scans, angiograms, or other notes and records in the surgeon’s field of view. By leaving the surgeon’s hands free, they are able to more easily conduct the procedure while accessing the information they need.

“Microsoft HoloLens and mixed reality will, in the future, enable me to have a patient’s scans in front of me while I’m doing the operation. If I can use technology to obtain that information, to see those images in front of me, that helps me tremendously and improves the outcome for my patient.”

Complementing the project is the simultaneous rollout of Microsoft’s Surface Hubs across the hospital. The large “digital whiteboards” will be deployed in the Alder Hey meeting rooms and, through Black Marble’s app, would allow multiple users to simultaneously write timestamped notes on the screen that could be uploaded onto a HoloLens headset for viewing during an operation.

“HoloLens has powerful visualization capabilities. Coupled with the Surface Hub, which is excellent for transforming collaborative experiences, we saw a range of opportunities for creating engaging user experiences,” Robert Hogg, chief executive of Black Marble, said in a statement. “The common factor for both these devices is that they are delivered on the Universal Windows Platform (UWP), which enabled us to write the application once, and still take advantage of the best features of both devices.”

Alder Hey has been designated as one of the National Health Service’s Global Digital Exemplars, provider centers supported by the service to help develop and deliver new technology-driven approaches to care. In the past, these digital initiatives have included Alder Play, an augmented reality app designed to engage and educate children during their stay at the hospital.

“It's incredibly important that we embrace technology to get our best people out there and do extraordinary things,” Iain Hennessey, clinical director of innovation at Alder Hey, said in a statement. “At the end of the day, the health of children is more important than anything else.”