A surgeon in his office surrounded by screens, microphones and interactive devices so he can examine a patient in another location.

CSIRO’s RIDES technology allows surgeon to consult with patients in remote locations

Bringing specialist healthcare to remote areas

CSIRO’s immersive environments technology allows specialist surgeons to examine patients in another location in a comprehensive and realistic way.

  • 14 July 2009 | Updated 14 October 2011

CSIRO is exploring how information and communications technology can improve remote delivery of healthcare by allowing realistic pre- or post-operative consultations between a clinical specialist and patient in a remote location.

Working with healthcare professionals, we have developed the Remote Immersive Diagnostic Examination System (RIDES).

By making extensive use of immersive environments technology, RIDES offers far more than ordinary video conferencing. Making the consultation as realistic as possible allows the doctor and patient to maintain the trust and confidence of a face-to-face visit.

How RIDES works

Our prototype system offers multiple channels of interaction over a broadband network to facilitate a consultation involving multiple parties.

For example, the consultation might involve:

  • the specialist
  • the patient
  • the patient’s family
  • a clinical assistant with the patient
  • clinical observers (who may be in other locations).

RIDES provides a realistic environment allowing doctor and patient to maintain the trust and confidence of a face-to-face visit.

In many medical consultations more then one specialist will provide expertise. Our tests involved paediatric craniofacial and orthopaedic surgery where patients often had several family members present.

We aim to use information and communications technologies to support interactions such as:

  • collaborating on documents and images
  • remote guidance by the specialist during any physical examinations
  • face-to-face discussions.

Effectively, we are developing ways of allowing a doctor to 'reach through' the computer screen and care for a patient in another location.

Current activities

Having developed a working prototype, we are now building a mobile version of the platform that health workers could simply take with them during house calls and visits to regional healthcare clinics.

We are also developing sophisticated image tracking technology so that annotations drawn on a patient will persist, even if the patient moves during the consultation.

To do this, the camera must pick up a feature on, say, the patient's arm. This could be as simple as a sticky dot. The camera then tracks that feature so it knows where the arm has moved and can therefore move any drawing that has been applied to the arm.

See RIDES technology in action

The technology on offer to facilitate realistic interactions includes:

  • multiple video streams
  • spatial audio
  • document sharing
  • bidirectional annotation of video views (both parties can sketch on video of the patient)
  • real-world annotation (using laser light to ‘draw’ on objects and people)
  • three dimensional video
  • tactile guidance of equipment such as a camera.

Here's how RIDES works.

A surgeon in his office surrounded by interactive devices. A patient and her family sit before interactive equipment.

A surgeon sits in an office equipped with:

  • a 3D video viewer
  • face-to-face camera/screen systems
  • the hospital’s picture archiving and communication system
  • interactive two tablet display.

A view of the patient’s clinic is shown on the screen on the wall.

The patient sits with her family in the clinic, which may be at a distant location from the surgeon.

An overview video of the surgeon’s office is shown on the large display on the wall.

 

Laser light on a sleeve shows 'x marks the spot'. A doctor holds a force-feedback camera close to the ear of a mannequin.

A remotely controlled laser projector is used to point to, and even draw directions on, particular items of interest: in this case, the patient’s arm.

Knowing precisely which spot is being discussed aids communication, particularly for medical staff who may be asked to attend the patient under the guidance of the surgeon.

Also aiding communication, documents are shared between the two sites. Any annotations made on the documents using the Tablet display are immediately visible at both sites.

A hand-held video is used by medical staff on site to allow the surgeon to examine the patient closely.

The camera has a tactile feedback (haptic) function controlled by the surgeon so the staff member can feel which way to turn the camera.

Clinical results

We completed a four-week clinical pilot study at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia. In this study, we linked two rooms: one for the surgeon and one for the patient, family and clinical assistant. We conducted 44 surgical outpatient consultations.

The results were:

  • 88 per cent of doctors were satisfied with the telehealth consultation and,
    when they checked the accuracy of the telehealth consultation by repeating it face-to-face, they found nothing had been missed.
  • 12 per cent of doctors felt uncertain of something during the telehealth consultation and wished to see the patient face-to-face to check.

Underpinning capabilities

Developing this technology drew on our skills in:

  • advanced broadband networks
  • telepresence
  • virtual reality
  • how humans interact with technology.

Research partner

This work is being undertaken with the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.

Outcomes

RIDES offers:

  • better access to specialist care
  • improved health outcomes for patients in rural and remote areas.

Award-winner

RIDES won the e-Centric Innovations e-Health award of the Canberra section of the 2009 iAwards.

Commercialisation opportunities

Having developed a prototype system, we are looking for commercial partners to take this technology to market.

Read more about our related technologies:

  • Photos of the surgeon's office and patient clinic by Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.