Digitalk: Multi Media Medicine

Ross Tibbles
Ross Tibbles

This week I went to the cinema with the family and a most interesting trailer came on. Not for the next big action/fantasy movie or show, but for a medical supportive treatment service called MediCinema.

Patrons and supporters of MediCinema include many stars of the big screen including Ewan McGregor, Robbie Coltrane, Kate Winslet, Dame Helen Mirren and Simon Pegg who featured in the advert I saw.

Their aim is to bring the cinema experience into hospitals to help patients suffering from long term or complicated medical conditions escape and disassociate themselves from their current situation and immerse themselves in another world via media.

They build full cinema theatres in hospitals and places of care which are specially tailored to allow access for wheelchairs and hospital beds for those who’s conditions limit their mobility while having it feel like a normal cinema for the full immersive experience.

Just imagine the healing power of escaping that pain you’ve been feeling for months purely down to the distraction of an enthralling story dancing past on a large screen in a dark room removed from the world.

Forgetting the stress of knowing the next treatment or surgery for your illness is just a couple days away, all the risks and what ifs rattling around in circles in your head being pushed to one side for a few hours.

This is the relief that MediCinema is aiming to bring to as many patients as they can. While currently they’re only located in six hospitals, three of which are in London, they’re a new charity that rely on donations to operate and expand and I have full confidence that we’ll be seeing MediCinemas around the country in just a few years. Visit www.medicinema to find out more.

Similar to MediCinema, video games are also being played in hospitals as a form of distraction therapy. The inherent immersive and focus grabbing nature of them is being used in the same way to alleviate stress and worry while distracting the patients from the discomfort they’re in.

This led me to look into other ways gaming technology is being used in medicine and found that in the US at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital in partnership with the Saint Louis University they are using virtual reality to plan out complex surgery procedures by creating detailed 3D imagery of the organs they’re about to operate on using the CT and MRI scans of the patient.

CT and MRI scans are essentially hundreds of 2D slices which the software they’ve developed compiles into a 3D image that they can then manipulate in the virtual reality platform. This allows the surgeons to plan out the operation itself on the render as they can see every blood vessel, tumour and muscle tissue in the render. This means they can know in advance what equipment they’ll need and best course of action reducing the time of the operation and the risks by a
great deal.

All this from the aid of an HTC Vive virtual reality kit (developed for Playstation 4) and some custom software.

Another interesting example of gaming in medicine could soon be Akili’s Project: Evo. The Boston based company is looking to develop a system that could be used to help treat patients with anxiety, ADHD, depression and autism using a system that combines virtual reality, and omnidirectional treadmill and immersive environment. What makes this different is that their goal is to have it validated enough to be prescribed.

Which means that it has to be FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved like any other medical treatment and equipment. It’s currently in phase 3 which is usually the final phase of clinical trials so it’s looking promising.

If it does succeed it will usher in a brand
new category of “Digital Medicine.”
How incredible!