Beatson Cancer Charity is always looking at innovative projects to fund that will enhance the lives of those affected by cancer. In this case, the charity was delighted to fund a project that will specifically help sarcoma patients better understand their treatment process through “Augmented Reality”
Steven Lo (Clinical Lead, Scottish Sarcoma Network- Glasgow Centre) is developing an Augmented Reality patient information leaflet with the School of Simulation and Visualisation, at The Glasgow School of Art, and will roll this out to all UK sarcoma centres via a freely downloadable user-friendly app.
Steven highlights some of the limitations of current patient information leaflets for sarcoma patients and explains how Augmented Reality works:
“The treatment of sarcoma can be overwhelming and confusing to patients. Current patient information leaflets do not adequately explain complex 3 dimensional concepts such as resection or reconstructive surgery, using the 2 dimensional restrictions of paper. Nor do they show expected patient outcomes e.g. ‘can I walk after surgery?’. We hope to improve the patient experience dramatically using Augmented Reality.
In the Harry Potter films, newspapers come ‘alive’ with moving images and words. However, this is not science fiction – we have already developed a patient information leaflet that can come ‘alive’ with videos and 3D models using a smartphone. This is known as Augmented reality, which is the use of technology to superimpose information - sounds, images and text - on the world we see."
A working prototype ‘leaflet’ has already been produced. The additional ‘Augmented Reality content demonstrates sequential thigh tumour resection, a 3D model of the thigh flap and a post-op patient gait video.
This allows patients to see the entire process of sarcoma surgery and possible patient outcomes after surgery e.g. “I’m having the same surgery, I now know what it involves, and I can see that I can walk after surgery.”
Patients open an app on their smart phone and scan the leaflet on the table with their camera which then triggers an interactive 3D holographic version of the leaflet on the patient’s smart phone. The 3D holographic version of the leaflet allows the patient to access additional information about sarcoma diagnoses and treatment options in an accessible manner which helps to empower the patient and assist the clinician during important discussions about the patient’s healthcare.
Augmented Reality Leaflet in use: You can see the 3D model comes out of the page as if it is real. It is fully interactive and comes with an audio guide.
Although the project is still under development, a pilot trial involving 24 patients took place to find out how Augmented Reality could help them to better understand their treatment process.
Once the app is rolled out nationally in the UK, it could directly benefit up to 5,300 sarcoma patients per year. Patients who have seen the Augmented Reality leaflet have found it to be much better in terms of understanding a surgical operation compared to currently available patient information leaflets.
One of Mr Steven Lo’s patients had this to say about the app: