Extended Reality for Telehealth
The technologies enabling a more fully immersive telehealth experience of the future
There has been a digital transformation in telehealth in the form of remote meetings and video consultations. Just a few years ago, it was considered innovative to meet with a patient over video: now it’s seen as routine. Necessity can be a catalyst for innovation and telehealth is now here to stay. But that doesn’t mean the industry has finished growing, changing — or expanding.
Extended reality (XR) is a catch-all term used to describe the many and various ways that technology can enhance what we perceive with our senses: how the real and virtual worlds can combine to extend perception, observation, and — in the case of telehealth — patient care and diagnosis. Using extended reality tools like augmented reality headsets and wearable devices, healthcare workers can diagnose with better accuracy, treat patients faster, and provide an optimal level of care — even when the patient is on the other side of the country (or the world).
Some of the innovative ways that people are combining telehealth and extended reality include:
Wearable technology to enhance remote patient monitoring
You enter a remote telehealth session with a patient. You ask them what seems to be the issue. They respond, “Well, my ring says that my sleep patterns have been disturbed for the past few nights due to elevated heart rate, and then today my temperature has gone up. Here, look at the data for yourself.”
Wearable technologies — from smart watches and wristbands to patches, rings, and even headsets — help collect valuable health data. These devices are already shaping the future of telehealth by making remote patient monitoring faster, easier, and more accurate than ever before.
There are currently thousands of wearable devices on the market, tracking a variety of conditions. But as sensor technology improves, the accuracy of these devices improves as well. In fact, Gartner predicts that “by 2024, miniaturizing capabilities will advance to the point that 10% of all wearable technologies will become unobtrusive to the user,” leading to rapid market growth over the next three to five years.
Virtual reality environments to set remote patients at ease
The immersive nature of VR makes it a great way to distract patients from the stress they’re feeling. In fact, virtual reality has already proven effective in helping anxious in-office patients relax in stressful situations — like a child receiving a vaccine. This soothing, calming effect can be replicated in telehealth as well.
Virtual environments can help alleviate some of the awkwardness of remote telehealth sessions, and help the patient feel closer — both physically and mentally — to the caregiver, which can improve patient care. According to a recent paper on the use of extended reality in telehealth:
“Some patients report reluctance to self-advocate during typical telehealth sessions because of poor eye contact and audio interference if more than one person speaks at a time (….)
Technologies that evoke presence—the perception, feeling, and interaction with simulations as if they were real — can meaningfully impact the practice and outcomes of telehealth.”
While VR technology might not yet be advanced enough to create a fully immersive telehealth experience, it could be very soon. Imagine the possibilities.
Augmented reality to improve patient care and diagnosis
Wearables aren’t just for patients. There are many devices on the market that can augment and enhance the skills of medical caregivers as well. Visual overlays can help practitioners improve the accuracy of incisions, find difficult veins, take patient temperatures remotely, and much more.
Many of these AR headsets, like those designed by RealWear, are also voice-controlled, leaving the practitioner’s hands free to do the work that needs to be done. They can also use the headsets to contact, and even video chat with, clinical specialists to get advice and guidance — making it easier for first responders in the field to accurately diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries before the patient even arrives at the hospital.
Getting started with extended reality in telehealth
As with any new technology, it’s important to work with partners who provide not only general support, but also vertical-centric support. Pexip is achieving this through partnering and working closely with headset manufacturers like RealWear and Hippo. We are also working with vertical-centric partners like SimplyVideo, allowing Pexip customers to add a variety of XR functionalities to their existing video telehealth platform. Pexip’s vision for the future is centered around leveraging technology to enhance and improve what people can achieve. We’re excited for the journey ahead and hope you will join us.
About the Author
Jordan Owens is the VP of Architecture for Pexip. He joined Pexip in 2012 from TANDBERG and Cisco where he led the Americas Technical Support organization, the Americas Product Engineering team, and a Pre-Sales Engineering organization for the previous 10+ years of his career. At Pexip, Jordan is responsible for leading the Americas engineering organization and serving as an extension of the global R&D organization. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org