Covid-19 has been a dreadful experience, not least for healthcare professionals on the frontline, who’ve been battling burnout as well as the coronavirus. But the pandemic has also created opportunities for medics to try new digital technologies, such as mixed reality, that could help them provide better care to patients.

At one of the largest NHS trusts in England, doctors on coronavirus wards wear Microsoft’s HoloLens headsets and use Microsoft’s Remote Assist platform to communicate remotely with other experts. Doctors at Imperial College Healthcare in London see their colleagues projected in front of their eyes, alongside the patient’s medical notes and X-rays. On the other side of the call, the remote healthcare teams see everything the doctor treating the Covid-19 patient can. But crucially, they remain at a safe distance at all times. The immersive technology reduces the risk of transmission and means hospitals need less PPE than they would do if everyone was in the same room.

Mixed reality (or holographic medicine) is a blend of the physical and the digital. The doctor doesn’t have to change anything they’d usually do, but they benefit from extra holographic information projected into their field of view.

As well as helping patients directly, medical educators can take advantage of mixed reality solutions to train up new doctors. Organizations, such as Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, use mixed-reality technology to create holographic simulations of medical scenarios. Students learn how to examine, diagnose and treat patients in a low-risk environment that is as close to real life as possible, but devoid of real-life consequences.

Holographic medicine even holds promise for improving surgery, potentially allowing the surgeon to overlay medical imaging scans onto the patient while they operate. Researchers at Singapore National University Health System are currently exploring the feasibility of such an approach in the future for removing brain tumors with better precision.

Mixed Reality allows medics to do something that was previously unthinkable: be in two places at once. It has the potential to improve patient care, without sacrificing the human component of medicine.

Learn more about how mixed reality is empowering doctors and helping patients: Microsoft Mixed Reality – Healthcare