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Research Feature: Understanding Patient Priorities for High Tech Healthcare Solutions

Madi Renner (The Digital Lab)
November 8, 2022
min read

Medical experiences can be worrisome, especially for kids – but they don’t have to be. Our research shows that immersive and emerging technologies can be used to reduce pain and anxiety associated with medical procedures, to help surgical teams prepare for complex surgeries, as well as to educate patients and families on a variety of healthcare topics. Building on this research, our team wanted to explore new ways to support the patient experience before, during, and after health procedures, using immersive and emerging technologies.

What are immersive and emerging technologies?

Immersive technologies create distinct experiences by merging the physical world with a digital or simulated reality. Augmented reality and virtual reality are two principal types of immersive technologies.

Emerging technology is a term generally used to describe a new technology or the continuing development of an existing technology.

As immersive and emerging technologies continue to gain popularity for use in healthcare applications, it is vital that the priorities of patients are used to inform technology development every step of the way. This is what inspired us at the Digital Lab to pursue research on understanding patient priorities for immersive and emerging technologies.

What we’re doing to advance digital health technologies for kids.

Our team at the Digital Lab was recently granted a competitive Planning & Dissemination grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). We will be partnering with kids and caregivers to gain a better understanding of the needs and gaps that could be addressed with technology. We will also focus on engaging and hearing from underrepresented groups, such as young girls and women, as well as immigrants. The priorities generated through this research will guide clinical teams, researchers, and policymakers toward developing meaningful and relevant solutions leveraging emerging digital technologies that solve pressing real-world issues.

The types of project we work on varies significantly, and we’re looking forward to better understanding patient priorities as we develop our plans for the future. Our lab explores a number of ways that these technologies can improve both the patient, caregiver, and healthcare provider experiences in various clinical, procedural, and educational settings. We’ve explored how using virtual reality can support kids during cast removals (add case study links for all, once research case studies are added with links to website), prepare kids for MRIs, and explored the value of our our VR-MRI program in clinical settings. We’ve utilized other emerging technologies, like 3D printing and modelling in a variety of contexts – like preparing surgical teams to remove complex tumours, preparing virtual courses to teach student doctors about congenital heart disease (CHD), and evaluating the impact of our 3D technologies programs in hospitals. We’ve also developed several web-based tools, like an app that enables caregivers and medical teams to support kids with epilepsy, an online self-management tool for those suffering with chronic pain, and a website that informs coaches, parents, and workers to diagnose and support people with concussions. As we continue our research endeavours in related areas, and expand our applications of various technologies, our research on patient priorities will be vital in guiding our decisions.

By understanding the needs and priorities of patients, we can make sure that technologies are being developed and implemented with the patient in mind. In this exciting time of digital innovation, we’re glad to be doing our part to make sure that patients from a variety of backgrounds, including those often under-represented in research, are included and heard in our research process.

Want to learn more?

Read our case study about this research project. (add link once available)

Read more about this project on the CIHR database.

Read about some of our immersive and emerging technology products.

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