Boston Children’s Hospital and Klick Health have revealed HealthVoyager, a tool that utilizes virtual reality to help patients understand their medical condition. The first version of the tool is called HealthVoyager GI and is, unsurprisingly, geared toward pediatric gastrointestinal patients.
In a phone interview, Yan Fossat, vice president of Klick Labs at Klick Health, explained that the two organizations cooperated to conceive the concept of the tool. Klick then built the technology layers of it. Now, HealthVoyager GI is being tested as part of a clinical study at Boston Children’s.
Here’s how it works: A doctor can plug the findings of a patient’s endoscopy or colonoscopy into a web interface. Then, the physician can pinpoint where any polyps, bleeding or other conditions were located. That information is put into a patient report that contains a QR code.
Using a cell phone, the patient or a family member scans the code. The patient can create his or her own personal avatar and begin the VR experience. By using a VR headset or Google Cardboard, the patient can see his or her GI tract, along with the conditions the doctor saw during the procedure.
HealthVoyager GI is HIPAA compliant.
“The problem it’s trying to solve is the communication between the patient and physician,” Fossat said. Patients usually only have a few minutes with a provider, and the discussion is complex. “There will be jargon and a whole layer of reasons why when you leave the doctor you only remember a very small fraction of what is said,” he added.
Klick and Boston Children’s want to use technology to help facilitate better interactions.
“We’ve designed a VR experience that’s engaging and visually catered to the patient,” Fossat said.
Virtual reality isn’t entirely a new endeavor in healthcare. Companies have used the technology to help specific groups, such as seniors and cancer patients. But their approach tends to focus on easing anxiety or pain management.
Klick and Boston Children’s wanted to explore a different application. They planned to use virtual reality to educate patients. With VR, all the information that comes from a doctor “stops being as mysterious,” Fossat said.
The tool also brings the concept of precision education to light. Though precision medicine has emerged as a hot topic, “education suffers from the same problem,” Fossat said. Information about a condition or disease isn’t always conveyed in the way that’s easiest for the patient to understand.
Looking ahead, Boston Children’s and Klick hope to bring the HealthVoyager concept to other areas of medicine and patient populations.
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