New technology enables students to see medical procedures without attending hospital

New technology has enabled students to see patient consultations remotely – a first in South West medical teaching.

The Microsoft HoloLens was used by the University of Plymouth and University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust. The technology sees a consultant wear a headlight-like device while conducting a consultation, with students watching and interacting from screens in the University’s new expansion in Plymouth Science Park.

Professor Hisham Khalil, Ear, Nose and Throat Consultant at UHPNT and Head of Peninsula Medical School at the University of Plymouth, was the first to trial the technology.

Students were able to interact with Hisham and the patient in real time – just as if they were in the consulting room – and benefit from the additional features of the HoloLens such as graphics and data being shown simultaneously onscreen.

Fay Davies, Business Development Manager at Plymouth Science Park, said: 

“Plymouth Science Park is committed to supporting innovative organisations and University of Plymouth graduates. Our partnership with the Peninsula Medical School is extremely exciting; and it’s great to see that it’s already benefiting the students who will become the next highly trained medical professionals to work in local hospitals.”

In order to comply with social distancing and infection control measures, students have had fewer opportunities to see procedures and consultations in practice, as only one might be allowed in the consulting room at a time. They are also excluded from certain clinical areas that are deemed a high risk during COVID-19. By employing this new technology, more students can benefit from exposure to interactive and valuable clinical learning.

The HoloLens has been used in the events industry and gaming, with some trials in medical teaching. Professor Khalil explains why its use in clinical education is so important.

“Here at Plymouth, we’re known for the amount and quality of clinical exposure we give to our students, and COVID-19 has posed significant challenges,” he said. “But thanks to this new technology, students can talk to the patient and me, and can see everything we’re doing throughout the appointment. It’s a fantastic piece of equipment, and allows us to deliver excellent experiences while ensuring everyone remains safe. Looking ahead, we hope to expand the use of the HoloLens into other procedures too.”

Fifth-year medical student, Omolara Jones, attended the HoloLens session, and said: 

“It was fantastic to see an endoscopy and be able to ask questions, so we were consolidating our learning in real time. It’s fantastic that current and future medical students will be able to benefit from this technology.”

The teaching room that the students utilised is part of a wider expansion into Plymouth Science Park, with new clinical teaching facilities available to use. An ‘Ultrasound Trainer’ and ‘BodyWorks simulator’ will also be used at the Park to facilitate hard-to-learn basic and advanced ultrasound scanning skills, allowing medical, radiography and physician associate students to learn in their own time and at their own pace in a low pressure, non-clinical environment.

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