Virtual platforms for surgery are gaining ground
Access to health care has always been a global problem, with people in rural areas being the most affected. The world simply does not have enough clinically trained and specialized physicians focused on the areas that need them most, leading to significant disparities in health outcomes.
Lack of access to surgery is part of this larger problem. Many patients often have to travel for hours before they can get to a health center that offers the specialist surgeon they need, especially when it comes to more complex medical conditions. This often leads to a prohibitive healthcare journey for patients, which results in a lower quality of life.
This is what companies like Proximie are trying to solve. Proximity is a technology company “that enables clinicians to virtually ‘step into’ any operating room or cath lab from anywhere in the world. By enabling clinicians to share their skills in real time, we can reduce variation in care and ensure that every patient receives the best healthcare every time.
In his latest announcement last week, the company reported that it raised $80 million in Series C funding, led by companies including Advent Life Sciences and more. The press release explains how Proximie supported over 13,000 surgeries last year and has now extended its reach to nearly 100 countries. Dr. Nadine Hachach-Haram, CEO and Founder of the company, says, “Our vision is to democratize surgery through better data by connecting every operating room and cath lab around the world. We started this journey allowing surgeons to reach virtually any operating room. Now, we’re using that capability to digitize the operating room, bringing patients the collective expertise of the world’s top surgeons – where data collected and shared on Proximie can help them receive lifesaving care, wherever they live.
While Proximie is clearly making waves, it’s certainly not the only tech company navigating this space. Another top player who has already established his name in the space is Microsoft’s Hololens platform. This platform aims to provide a similar solution: “Enable teams to work safely and improve patient treatment by reducing treatment time. With HoloLens 2, healthcare professionals can connect with remote experts, call up patient data, and go beyond X-rays to view 3D MRI images at the point-of-care. The platform particularly facilitates “real-time remote collaboration to receive advice from expert colleagues and instant access to medical notes and patient X-rays at the point of care”.
In terms of reality perform remote surgery, the technology is still a work in progress. One of the most profound endeavors in augmented and virtual reality interaction is Meta’s work with Reality Labs and “touching” the virtual world“To enable this experience and bring a twist to the metaverse, the team is developing haptic gloves: comfortable, customizable gloves that can replicate a range of sensations in virtual worlds, including texture, pressure, and vibration. Although we are still in the early stages of this research, the goal is to one day pair the gloves with your VR headset for an immersive experience like playing a concert or a game of poker in the metaverse, and eventually they would work with your AR glasses. » Sensations such as touch, feel and pressure are of crucial importance in a surgical or clinical procedure. There is undoubtedly a lot of work to be done in this space to make virtual surgery a reality, but the concept is promising.
Ultimately, security, privacy, and patient safety will need to be maintained at the highest standards when it comes to any kind of remote healthcare solutions. However, if these aspects, in addition to the actual effectiveness of the technology, are achieved, it could indeed change the way surgery is viewed in decades to come.