Mixed reality's potential in orthopedics


Mixed reality is one of many innovations that could take orthopedics to the next level.

Tony Yi, chief technology information officer at MedVanta, connected with Becker's to discuss mixed reality's potential in orthopedics. 

Note: This response has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What technology is slated to be the "next big thing" in orthopedics?

Tony Yi: Many big things will impact orthopedics, like 3D printing, robotics, and of course, the advancements in AI. What you haven't heard too much about is mixed reality, and its ability to help medical providers and surgeons deliver the best treatment possible.

Mixed reality is an integration of the real world, digital, and the augmented representations of things. Before a surgery, imagine a medical team being able to plan and test a procedure by creating 3D models of bones and joints for a very complicated case. This enriched experience, insight and level of detail offered in multiple scenarios will drive higher surgical success.

During surgery in real-time, mixed reality will help navigate a surgeon with enriched data and visuals when placing implants, surgical cuttings, avoiding sensitive nerves and so on. For high-risk patients with underlying health conditions, being able to digitally overlay organs, bones, tissues and individualized health concerns over the patient's body provides a comprehensive and encompassing view that surely benefits the medical team and patient, like never before. 

There is a caveat to mixed reality and other emerging technologies as they all have one thing in common and that is the need for information and its application. Datafication (digitizing information and everything around us) and AI go hand in hand to collect and make data relevant and powerful. Without the symbiotic relationship between datafication and AI, technologies like mixed reality, 3D printing, robotics, etc., would become obsolete to some extent. If there's one thing you take away, remember this, data plus intelligence, is both foundational and disruptive. 

Technology is moving very fast, sometimes too fast; what we refer to as MR, VR, AI, etc., may one day be different acronyms or a plug-and-play on a supercomputer. What doesn't change is the need to make technology and medicine more accessible and applicable to the patients they serve, and that should always be the mission for those (payers, providers, retail, ancillaries, pharma, big tech) who partake in healthcare.  

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