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Sharp and Apple Vision Pro: The future of health care

By The Health News Team | February 21, 2024
Dr. Tom Lawrie and Dr. Tommy Korn at Sharp HealthCare

Drs. Tom Lawrie and Tommy Korn demonstrate how the Apple Vision Pro can be used to enhance the delivery and practice of health care. 

The new Apple Vision Pro you’ve been hearing so much about is not just for gamers and lovers of all things advanced technology. It has the potential to transform health care; and Sharp is among the first of the technology’s early adopters, having recently acquired 30 of the wearable devices.

The “spatial computer” from Apple blends 3D digital content with the physical world. Apps, movies, images, videos, virtual calls and games can be navigated using a person’s hands, eyes and voice. What’s more, it has several uses for health care organizations, from the management of patient information to training and assisting in procedures.

To capitalize on the benefits of spatial computing in health care, Sharp has announced the creation of the Spatial Computing Center of Excellence. The center will serve as a hub where health care providers and technicians will come together to identify new ways to enhance patient care using the Apple Vision Pro.

“Using Apple Vision Pro, you can immediately imagine the amazing and far-reaching implications of this technology for the practice and delivery of medicine,” says Chris Howard, Sharp’s president and CEO. “Sharp has long been committed to transforming the health care experience, and Vision Pro is indeed a game changer — so much so that we created a center of excellence dedicated to this effort.”

The Spatial Computing Center of Excellence will be housed in the Sharp Prebys Innovation and Education Center, a cutting-edge teaching, development and simulation facility opened in 2023. There, Sharp will assemble a team of physicians, nurses, technicians, software developers and more who will work with outside partners to develop, test and use innovative solutions at Sharp and across the health care industry.

“Our goal at Sharp is to provide technologies that enhance the experiences of both our caregivers and patients,” said Don Courville, vice president and chief technology officer at Sharp. “Improved caregiver training using augmented reality and what is called ‘intuitive visualization’ of clinical data, which helps present information in a clear and concise way for better understanding, are just two of the many ways spatial computing technology could positively transform medicine.”

Real-life applications

According to Dr. Brian Lichtenstein, a Sharp-affiliated internal medicine doctor and pediatrician, use of the new technology will enhance effectiveness, productivity, collaboration, education and treatments across a wide range of specialties and care provider roles, from the doctor’s office and operating room to bedside care and caregiver education.

He remembers when one of Apple’s earlier devices made a similar impact on him and the practice of medicine.

“In 2008, I was in med school, and I remember so distinctly having the very first Apple iPhone in my hand, thinking to myself, ‘Gosh, this is really, really cool,’” he says. “I had a cell phone before that, but this was something totally different. You could check your email on it or send photos to friends. I was also using it a lot for medical education purposes, listening to podcasts in preparation for examinations and using it as an on-the-fly reference. It was like having a supercomputer in my pocket.”

Fast forward 15 years, and Dr. Lichtenstein had the opportunity to go to Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino with other Sharp physicians and leaders to try the Apple Vision Pro before it was released.

“My jaw was on the floor,” he says.

Dr. Lichtenstein shares that using the Vision Pro was a completely different way of experiencing technology than he had ever encountered before. It immediately prompted dozens of ideas about how he and others could use it to care for patients.

“What's very, very clear is that this incredible device is going to be fantastic for people that need to look at anatomy,” Dr. Lichtenstein says. “Right now, we're locked into real estate that's defined by a screen, whether on a computer, phone or tablet. With Vision Pro, the entire space is at your disposal."

The Apple Vision Pro provides an immersive 3D experience, Dr. Lichtenstein says. A doctor can have multiple studies up at the same time, compare them to different views, manipulate anatomy in 3D, and all with the patient’s information available. "I can’t begin to tell you how helpful that will be for radiologists, surgeons and other physicians who perform complex procedures,” he says.

As an educational tool, Dr. Lichtenstein says the Vision Pro can help provide an immersive experience for students and health care professionals looking to expand their knowledge and skills. For example, a nursing student can experience a virtual code blue event, when a patient is in a life-threatening situation, before ever experiencing an actual one.

“You can give the student a very visceral experience,” he says. “They can get a feel for what they would see and hear; learn how to interact with the physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists in the room; and understand their role in treating the patient.”

Dr. Lichtenstein also looks forward to using the technology to simply review a patient’s medical history, understand the things that brought them in for care, and then act on it. It’s a device, he says, that can bring care providers closer to patients and enhance medical treatments and education.

“At the end of the day, though, the reason we're doing this, and the reason I get so excited about tools and technologies like this, is because we can enhance the care for our patients.”

Learn more about technology at Sharp; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

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