Wearable cognitive assistance: what is it and what can it do?

Portable cognitive support could be the new advantage hospitals and healthcare systems need to improve their clinical processes and achieve cost efficiencies.

Technology, which combines AI-enabled devices with edge computing, can help people complete tasks more efficiently by giving them virtual instructions and sometimes connecting them to other people who can help them.

For example, a surgeon can use the software as part of a special pair of goggles that provide a preoperative checklist tailored to specific patients. Augmented reality could offer improved visualizations and easy access to a patient’s medical history – helping to improve patient safety while reducing the time required to perform a given procedure.

Deloitte recently published a report on how WCA could transform workflows and processes in healthcare and beyond. We asked one of the authors, Deloitte CEO Apan Tiwari, a few questions about the technology and how healthcare systems should use it.

Q. In short, what is wearable cognitive support and why should healthcare leaders care?

A Wearable cognitive support refers to wearable devices fused with computer vision and edge computing, enabling augmented human interactions to solve complex real-world problems. What sets WCA devices apart from other wearable devices is that WCA uses AI-enabled, task-specific software that verifies that work has been completed correctly and can connect to live human experts for assistance when needed.

There is a lot of potential in the healthcare space for WCA; selected examples include:

  • Advanced surgical training. There are currently new technologies on the market that could be used for basic surgical training. However, with WCA, the AI-enabled, task-specific software can provide real-time feedback to surgeons — making training much more effective. The incredible thing about this technology is that you break down geographic barriers, allowing you to educate surgeons around the world on the latest surgical techniques. It also encourages us to dream about what this level of access to training could do to improve healthcare in emerging markets.

  • OP support. The task-specific software can guide a surgeon during an actual operation, with the option to bring in an expert when the situation calls for it, or as a tool that surgeons can use to plan surgeries, with the on-device task-specific software providing recommendations/options .

  • Intelligent repair and maintenance. Our paper talks about repair and maintenance scenarios that are also applicable to hospital/pharmaceutical equipment.

Q. How will 5G and edge computing work in tandem with WCA technologies?

A WCA devices must:

  1. compact (they are wearables)

  2. powerful (to check/suggest actions in real-time)

  3. while offering decent battery life (without overheating).

This balancing act requires the expansion of device memory and computing power with a richer edge computing infrastructure, all connected via a high-speed, low-latency wireless connection such as 5G.

This would allow WCA devices to integrate real-time image acquisition, processing, action validation, and action recommendations through AI-infused, task-specific software in a compact form factor.

Q. What is the great potential for the development of these tools in the coming years?

A. Globally, the market for enterprise wearables is expected to grow exponentially over the next decade. WCA devices are a subset of the broader enterprise wearables market and could find plenty of traction in the years to come.

Q. What challenges need to be addressed along the way?

A There are no standards for WCA implementations, nor can you buy off-the-shelf WCA solutions.

Indoor low-latency Wireless Plus Edge is now ready for prime time, with 5G public landline or private 5G/WLAN plus on-premise Edge. In general, outdoor mobile use cases require extended 5G coverage from telcos.

Any new technology will introduce new cybersecurity and privacy vulnerabilities that need to be addressed prior to implementation. Likewise, proprietary information collected by wearables must meet stringent privacy requirements, particularly in healthcare.

Q. What should IT decision makers in hospitals and healthcare systems do to take full advantage of WCA tools?

A In my opinion, you should always start with the problem: what are you trying to solve, why is it important and what is the ROI?

Once the above is clear and well understood, one should start thinking about the solution that a WCA component can have. Most likely, the solution will be an ecosystem game, and decision makers need to bring in the right:

  • System Integrator(s).

  • Device OEMs.

  • 5G/Wi-Fi Network Provider.

  • On-prem/edge/cloud computing and storage providers.

  • Specialized software OEM etc.

These partners are selected in a context-related manner depending on the problem and solution architecture.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the author: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.

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