Tag Archives: healthcare

Virtual & Augmented Reality in Veterinary Education

[This is a guest blog post I wrote for the RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) ViVet Expert Blog page. The original post can be viewed here.]
Anyone who has watched films such as The Matrix or the more recent Spielberg offering, Ready Player One, will be familiar with the idea of virtual reality and the potential of it to transform not only entertainment but many other aspects of our lives, including work and education.
Spatial computing, which incorporates both Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) – collectively referred to as Mixed Realty (MR) – is rapidly moving from the realms of science fiction into fact, providing those in healthcare with a range of exciting and interesting new tools. Whilst there are a number of case examples of MR being employed within the human medical sector, it’s use remains in it’s infancy within the veterinary sector, although I see that changing over the next few years.
According to recent survey data the level of enthusiasm for spatial computing as a potentially useful tool within the veterinary profession is high even though the level of practical experience with such technology remains low. Whilst VR has been around for decades it is only in recent years that the technology has advanced to levels that now enable a range of extremely useful applications and is gaining wider adoption as opposed to simply being the preserve of gamers and academics. Much of this drive in adoption has come from the advances in mobile technology. One can easily experience the magic of VR using a phone-based headset like the Samsung GearVR or engage with AR through their Apple iPhone, whether it be chasing after Pokemon or playing with dinosaurs as they run across a tabletop. The barriers to entry of truly high-spec VR are rapidly falling and it will soon be possible to experience full six-degrees-of-freedom VR, allowing users to directly engage and interact with a virtual world, without having to break the bank by buying expensive gaming equipment. Truly untethered, mobile headsets, such as those in development by companies like Oculus, will, I am certain, herald a wave of mass adoption of VR. As soon as more people get to try spatial computing for themselves the applications will start to be imagined and created, including many that will change how we, as veterinarians, train, educate ourselves and clients, and manage our professional lives.
I recently spoke at an industry conference in the US on VR in Veterinary, with education and training the most obvious areas for application at present. Human surgeons are already able to practice certain skills in VR, using programs like OssoVR, and the evidence supports the view that immersive systems that provide practical training scenarios do translate into effective learning. The airline industry has used VR systems to train pilots for years. Why not use the same principles to ensure that our surgeons, both of humans and animals, learn, practice and refine key skills in a safe, repercussion-free environment before they apply those same skills to real-life patients. If I had been able to graduate from vet school having carried out hundreds of (virtual) bitch spays – a feat that would simply not have been possible in the real world – even if the virtual scenarios only modelled very specific aspects of the experience, then I think my confidence as a new graduate and my progression as a clinical practitioner would have been significantly greater. Practical CPD in the future is highly unlikely to involve groups of people huddling round a single-use physical model or hard-to-source cadaver but rather take place in the infinite bounds of the digital environment, where specific training scenarios are but a virtual menu selection away and there is no limit to the ‘practice models’ available.
We are, I believe at the very start of this spatial computing journey in the veterinary profession, with many questions yet to be both asked and answered. I, as with many others, look forward to the day when donning a pair of smart glasses or a VR headset will be seen as a normal part of our professional experience.
How do you envisage us learning in the future? Can you imagine using Virtual or Augmented Reality to learn new skills or improve existing ones?

VR & AR in Veterinary

The presentation above is a recorded version of the same one delivered at the 2018 VR Voice ‘VR in Healthcare Symposium’ held at Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA.

Please follow the link below to access a PDF version of the full paper from the above presentation, including the results of the survey conducted on the experiences and awareness of VR and AR within the veterinary profession.

Click link below to access paper

VR & AR in Veterinary_White Paper 2018

Pain & Perception in Healthcare

Sometimes things happen that just make you want to rush home, fire up the computer and start typing. Today saw one of those events: a visit to a chiropodist here in Dubai.
Chiropody Centre_Dubai“Okay then….” I can hear you saying quizzically. The reason is that it drove home the very real value of experienced, confident healthcare and why paying for it is not something anyone should have any qualms about. I have been suffering, it seems, from a very common ailment, one that affects very large numbers of people, especially when of an active disposition: an ingrown nail. The problem, which seems to have selected my right big toe as it’s victim, started shortly before I headed to the US in 2012 to get my skydiving fix and continued to cause me grief upon my return. Repeated courses of antibiotics from the GP did nothing to alleviate the issue and it was only once I was considering the extreme option of surgery that I reached out to a chiropodist. Boom! One simple visit, a basic explanation of the problem, some accurate trimming and instant relief. Long story short, the issue had recently resurfaced and given that I have a rather big race approaching and do not wish to be crippled for it, or indeed for anything, I Googled ‘chiropodist’ in Dubai and found myself in front of the affable Jorg Stobel, of the Chiropody Center. One look, some even better explanations than before and fifteen minutes of trimming, smoothing, lacquering and general food TLC and I was as good as new. No need for drastic measures such as surgery after all. Awesome.
When presented with the bill of just over 800AED (£140 / $220) I was more than happy to cough up, which got me thinking en route back home about the value of healthcare and some of the issues we face in veterinary.
Why is it that a bill of that amount for what was essentially a fifteen minute appointment feels like good value whereas the same bill presented to one of my clients for a similar appointment would likely be cause for complaint? The answer, I believe, comes down to the simple fact that it was ME who was the direct recipient of the RELIEF that came with the treatment. I felt better, almost instantly, and so the fact that my pain and my problem was dealt with meant that I had a far greater appreciation of the real value of the services rendered. An appointment for a pet is clearly not going to have such a direct, personal effect as when you are the one receiving the medical treatment and so I would argue that the value is not communicated in quite as convincing a manner. What if a pet owner felt the effects of the fever and pain experienced by their cat with an abscess? What if that tooth with the resorptive lesion and tartar was our own, or we could experience the discomfort that our pet felt from it? Would it alter our impression of the value of the services performed by veterinarians and actually lead to the invoices presented being viewed as reasonable, if not cheap? I rather suspect they would. It would make for a fascinating study, don’t you think?