Torbay team trialling ground-breaking digital technology that's key to improving patient outcomes

Joseph Bulmer

Medical Matters - this week Jacqueline Rees-Lees, consultant oncoplastic breast and plastic surgeon, talks about an exciting new pilot that is taking place at Torbay Hospital’s breast care unit and reflects on the difference that digital technology is making not only to people’s health and wellbeing but also to their experience of treatment and care:

Along with a small group of other hospital trusts, we at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust have worked with NHS Digital as a national pilot centre for the trialling the ground-breaking Microsoft HoloLens 2 and Dynamics 365 Remote Assist.

A mixed reality headset, HoloLens 2 uses multiple sensors, advanced optics, and holographic processing.

The digital overlays created within the headset can be used to display information which blends with the real world to create a mixed or augmented view.

The first pilot project is taking place at Torbay's breast care unit, where the digital technology will support nurse-led dressing clinics.

Clinical specialist nurses will be able to send a high-resolution video feed to consultants, in real time, to get immediate feedback and advice on a patient’s needs.

Additionally, consultants are able to add digital markers and annotations live on to the video, to guide the nurse’s view where useful.

This replaces the current system of emailing static images to consultants.

Extended Reality (XR) Technologies are undoubtedly going to play a big part in patient care, and staff and healthcare education in the future.

The Hololens 2 mixed reality headset will help us develop digital technology to bring benefits to our patients and staff in the hospital and out in the community.

We are a busy service and cannot always be in the breast care unit, this technology allows me to assist other clinicians and support our support our nursing staff from anywhere.

I am able to talk and interact with patients and so am able to gather crucial information throughout the appointment process.

This live collaboration is key to improving patient outcomes and experience.

It can also help with business continuity, for example, if a clinician is self-isolating due to Covid-19.

The system works over Microsoft Teams and is so easy to use and secure.

In terms of security, we always get patient consent but everything is encrypted and no information is stored.

We have been using digital technology and virtual reality-driven solutions to help improve patient care and complement staff training for some time at Torbay and South Devon.

Patients who are seriously ill, undergoing treatment or are end of life, have been offered immersive experiences for therapeutic support and it has also helped train staff in real-life scenarios.

I work closely with colleagues in our digital futures laboratory.

This is an innovation space, supported by Health Education England, which enables us to explore, share and understand the potential benefits that digital technologies can offer to staff and patients.

Our staff can directly experience and learn about a range of technologies, including augmented and virtual reality, and creatively explore how they can be used to support healthcare delivery, enhance patient and staff experience and deliver education and training.

It is wonderful to have the HoloLens 2 pilot project as part of our digital futures work as we always want to be sure there is real value being added with any new technology.

The HoloLens works alongside the current platform we use for virtual collaboration and videoconferencing, but it is paramount that those using new devices and equipment feel comfortable and confident in doing so.

We are working closely with our patients and staff to make sure their experience is the best it can be.