AUSTRALIAN doctors are looking to virtual reality (VR) to change health care to better suit modern-day needs, thanks to home-grown startup company, Vantari VR.
Vantari VR is developing cutting edge technology to convert CT, MRI and other medical images into virtual reality, signalling the end of two-dimensional (2D) black and white medical scans.
The Australian-made technology is being tested by NSW doctors who are showing patients their scans using VR headsets, bringing medical imaging to life. The company is also exploring other ways to use this technology, including using virtual reality in surgical planning and to train junior doctors.
Vantari VR was founded by two doctors, Vijay Paul and Nishanth Krishnananthan, whose combined experience in emergency medicine and surgery inspired them to solve a common problem.
“Health care professionals go through years of training to learn how to read standard medical scans,” Dr Paul said.
“There is no surprise that patients often struggle to decipher what the colourless blurs mean during a short medical appointment. We’ve worked at medical centres and hospitals across Australia, and noticed that this was a common issue at all of them, so we decided to do something about it,” Dr Paul said.
Knee surgery patients at Sydney’s Campbelltown Private Hospital will be some of the first to experience this technology during a six-month trial.
At Westmead Hospital in Sydney, Vantari VR is being piloted for procedural training where junior doctors and trainees are able to learn from immersive simulations hosted on a sophisticated VR platform.
Vantari VR is also being tested at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital where surgeons are turning traditional scans into virtual reality and using VR headsets to plan surgical procedures. According to research by Stamford University in the US, using virtual reality for surgical planning increases accuracy by 10 percent and decreases planning time by 40 percent.
HELPED BY HCF CATALYST
When Vantari VR was in its prototype phase, Dr Paul and Dr Krishnananthan participated in the HCF Catalyst program, an accelerator that helps health care startups and scaleups to develop their ideas into investment-ready businesses in 12 weeks.
The doctors’ program mentors encouraged them to look at different ways health care professionals could use virtual reality in patient care.
“The HCF Catalyst program helped us see the greater potential to use virtual reality to not only educate patients but drive better understanding across the health system,” Dr Krishnananthan said.
“We want to be part of the movement that progresses the Australian health system into today’s modern technological world. It is important that we encourage doctors to use technology that can improve patient outcomes.”
HCF and venture fund Slingshot select businesses that share a vision of making health care affordable, understandable, high quality and patient centric to participate in the yearly accelerator program. Program participants receive mentoring, marketing and infrastructure support.
HCF Catalyst gave both Vantari VR founders education on the business side of running a heath Startup.
“As doctors we had clinical acumen and a good work ethic, but we needed support to learn new business skills,” Dr Paul said. “The HCF Catalyst program taught us how to create a sustainable business model and fundamental professional business skills like sales and pitching.”
HCF chief executive officer Sheena Jack is the driving force behind the health care accelerator program. She believes Vantari VR is a great example of how technology has the power to make health care more understandable and high-quality for patients.
“We run the HCF Catalyst program to support entrepreneurs like Dr Paul and Dr Krishnananthan, who are using technology to make complex health care processes easier for Australian patients to understand and have potential to improve patient outcomes,” Ms Jack said.
“We think there is significant opportunity for the health care system to be using more advanced technology, like virtual reality, as research continues to show that it can benefit Australian patients.”