MXR, or Medical Extended Reality, brings augmented, virtual and mixed reality to training, diagnosis, surgery, and rehabilitation.
XR development is bringing unprecedented innovation to healthcare!
Surgeries are remotely assisted by specialists with mixed reality glasses, planning chemotherapy treatments using holograms, and training doctors and nurses using immersive virtual reality devices. The use of Extended Reality (XR) technologies is having such an impact on healthcare that a designation for this field is already in use: MXR, or Medical Extended Reality.
XR in health: “Any doctor is a potential scientist”
This is a relatively new development but with immense potential. So much so that the US regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is working on its regulatory framework to encourage developments, while ensuring the reliability and safety of these solutions.
In one of the first workshops that the FDA organized to explore technologies and applications in this new field, nearly 70 organizations and more than 700 professionals from industry, academia, and the public sector participated.
Assuming various formats, MXR’s ultimate objective is to improve patient care and provide them with more personalized service. Medical students can access more efficient training; doctors can manipulate three-dimensional images and simulate procedures, improve surgical planning and collaborate in real-time with specialists located in other cities. These tools can optimize diagnoses and even accelerate the recovery of patients, in the case of virtual reality, assisting in recovery, rehabilitation, and physiotherapy.
More broadly, XR development can simultaneously improve patient outcomes and the quality of public health. There are few areas where the benefits are as evident as this one, which explains the number of experiments being done in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and several European markets.
In Italy, the IRCCS San Raffaele hospital is testing a solution that allows doctors to visualize holograms of medical images and detailed 3D models in the preparation and conduct of surgeries. In Germany, the “Healthy Reality ” project was launched, exploring how virtual reality and augmented reality can be used to improve the healthcare sector. The country hosts one of the most important Medical XR congresses in September, Shift Medical 2022.
Several hardware and medical device manufacturers have signed partnerships to develop MXR technology, most of which are small in scale. But there are some big names: Microsoft and Philips have a partnership that crosses the image-driven treatment platform Azurion with the HoloLens 2 eyewear, which is at the forefront of “holographic medicine.” And Magic Leap has agreed with Brainlab to improve the way clinicians view and access imaging through a modified version of the Magic Leap platform.
The impact on medicine
The connection between the real and virtual worlds gained visibility with the launch of several solutions aimed at the Metaverse in October 2021. And both people and companies rushed to secure their space in virtual reality, buying land, going to shows and acquiring luxury brands to your avatars. But, in addition to entertainment, this multiverse that is being built virtually will be increasingly important for work, even for the practice of medicine.
An example of the possibility of training new doctors on a virtual operating table: “with a mixed, augmented and/or virtual reality transported to the physical world, it is possible to create perfect images of organs and systems for the study of the case before leaving for safe surgery in the digital hospital”.
Also, in preventive medicine, it is possible to use virtual reality so that children – and adults are afraid of needles, why not? – can have an immersive experience before having their vaccines.
Virtual reality can work both remotely (via telemedicine) and in person. Imagine patients with chronic diseases, who suffer from disabling pain, being able to use this type of technology to find relief beyond the use of drugs, it would be such a relieving experience.
Finally, there are already projects, such as the one at the University of Basel, in Boston (USA), that recreate 3G images in real-time so that surgeons can visualize all the information they need from the patient before making a decision.
In a nutshell, MXR is slowly taking over the medical field and we are beyond grateful for technology. It is making every sector flourish faster than imagined.