Due to COVID-19, access to the operating theatres in hospitals is restricted, which means medical training must balance practical learning experiences while ensuring the safety of their students.
NUS have released how they are enabling their medical students from the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine to experience the process of patient safety and immersion in operating theatre procedures through virtual reality (VR).
The students have been able to learn about the entire flow of the peri-operative setting: from dental clearance to anaesthesia evaluation, to the handling of sharps during surgery and the safe conduct of operations in a simulated environment through VR headsets and hand-held controllers.
The system, called PAtient Safety aS Inter-Professional Training (PASS-IT), is a digital gamified environment that allows students to learn about hands-on techniques in the operating theatre.
“PASS-IT’s gamified style lets multiple learners be immersed in situations where they are given the opportunity to participate in what would usually be a highly restricted environment,” said Associate Professor Alfred Kow, a surgeon and Assistant Dean (Education) of NUS Medicine.
“With the COVID-19 situation, students have also been removed from these settings of practical learning due to the risk of exposing them to aerosol-generating procedures. This VR system is a good tool to help the students consolidate their learning despite increased clinical restrictions,” he added.
Operating in the virtual training world
Medical students use VR headsets and hand-held controllers to interact with each other in real-time. Their physical movements and actions are also tracked and displayed in real-time for visualisation and evaluation.
The tool allows students “to make mistakes, learn in a safe environment and ensure that they are competent before they enter actual clinical environment to care for patients”, according to Assoc Prof Kow.
The PASS-IT programme was piloted with a cohort of 36 third-year medical students who had just completed their clinical rotations in surgery, as well as 56 fourth-year medical students during their Phase IV Anaesthesia posting.
Students showed improved understanding of peri-operative patient safety after the training. Results also showed that the VR training had elevated the students’ appreciation for effective communication between healthcare workers, and the majority of students also spoke positively of the use of VR technology to enhance their knowledge of patient safety.
Assistant Professor Terry Pan from the Department of Anaesthesia at NUS Medicine said the introduction of the PASS-IT VR system has been timely as it gave the students “a unique opportunity to continue the operating theatre learning experience virtually in a safe and structured manner”.
“This innovative VR tool can certainly complement the operating theatre learning experience when the current restrictions are lifted,” he added.
According to New Zealand’s latest research virtual reality to address mental health issues is showing potential. The new study was headed by a computer science senior lecturer and co-authored by a PhD student. The lecturer-student team is also conducting a Massey Strategic Research Excellence Fund-funded research project on intelligent customised VR for depression treatment. The project was inspired by the realisation that there is little study on using virtual reality to aid in the treatment of depression and even less work on providing patients with a tailored VR experience.
The study was recently published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health, and it has already gotten a lot of press. The researchers conducted a scoping assessment of studies published between 2017 and 2021 that examined the use of virtual reality (VR) as a treatment for anxiety. Most studies found that using virtual reality to help the treatment of anxiety in a variety of situations was successful, and they suggested it as a tool for use in a clinical setting.
The ability to view the inside of the human body in Virtual Reality is not only useful for doctors, but also for patients. VR allows patients to be taken through their surgical plan by virtually stepping into a patient-specific 360° VR reconstruction of their anatomy & pathology. Hence, enhanced understanding of the treatment and consequently higher patient satisfaction.
New Zealand’s Otago University Mental Health Clinical Research Unit, Auckland Institute of Studies, Otago Polytechnic Auckland campus, and Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University collaborated on the study. It examined the ways VR exposure and interventions have been used in the treatment of mental health conditions, the technologies used, and how effective they have been as a treatment method.
The project’s original concept and outcomes were presented at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2020) and the 13th ACM Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction conference on Engineering Interactive Computing Systems, respectively (EICS 2021).
To increase the quality of psychological treatments and improve mental health outcomes for New Zealanders, the project draws on the expertise of an interdisciplinary team of researchers working at the intersection of mental health, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. The senior lecturer in computer science believes the initiative will pave the way for the use of virtual reality in the mental health profession in New Zealand. “We believe our contribution can pave the way for large-scale efficacy testing, clinical use, and cost-effective delivery of intelligent individualised VR technology for mental health therapy across Aotearoa New Zealand in the future.”
OpenGov Asia reported that while many individuals are eager to get their vaccinations and prevent the deadly COVID-19 virus from spreading further, trypanophobia, or a fear of needles, is believed to be causing problems for a significant number of people across the country. Researchers from the University of Otago have collaborated with a tech firm to develop new software that uses virtual reality (VR) to distract patients who are frightened of needles so they can receive the injections they needed.
The programme had been tested out by patients in Christchurch when receiving influenza shots while wearing the VR headset. A patient claim that he could “barely tell” when the injection was taking place and that he would recommend the app to anyone who is afraid of needles. People with phobias or anxiety over things like flying, heights, spiders, and social situations could also benefit from it.
The application of virtual reality in mental health is a cutting-edge field with a lot of potential and that it will be fascinating to see where the field goes. This is especially true as standalone VR headsets become more inexpensive and certain models allow researchers to collect and analyse physiological data from participants.
A calculator to help people understand their risk factors for COVID-19 infection and vaccination has been launched by the Immunisation Coalition in collaboration with Australian researchers. The tool’s three co-lead researchers are University of Queensland virologist Dr Kirsty Short, CoRiCal instigator from Flinders University Associate Professor John Litt and GP Dr Andrew Baird.
It was noted that Immunisation Coalition COVID-19 Risk Calculator (CoRiCal) was an online tool to support GPs and community members in their discussions about the benefits and risks of COVID-19 vaccines. It was designed to help people make an informed decision around vaccination based on their current circumstances and also see their risk for getting COVID-19 under different transmission scenarios.
Users can access the tool and input their age, sex, community transmission and vaccination status to find out their personalised risk calculation. For example, users can determine their chances of being infected with COVID-19 versus their chances of dying from the disease. They can also find out their chances of developing an atypical blood clot from the AstraZeneca vaccine and see this data in the context of other relatable risks – like getting struck by lightning or winning OzLotto, Dr Kirsty Short said.
The CoRiCal Covid Risk Calculator is in its pilot stage but will be continuously updated in line with the latest health and scientific advice, including risk assessments on Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, pre-existing medical conditions such as obesity and diabetes, and long COVID.
The CoRiCal project included a team of GPs, medical scientists, public health physicians, epidemiologists and statisticians. Associate Professor John Litt, Immunisation Coalition Scientific Advisory Committee member, said he hoped that CoRiCal would help GPs save time and create an accurate assessment of an individual’s risk of COVID-19 or one of the vaccines.
GPs are spending a lot of time trying to explain the risks of COVID-19 and the various vaccines to their patients, Dr Litt said. An accurate, evidence-based tool that is transparent and unaligned with professional groups should help GPs in their task of facilitating COVID vaccination for their patients.
A Melbourne-based stated that CoRiCal was adaptable for booster doses, new viral strains, new vaccines, younger age groups, international markets and even for other infectious diseases. It was noted that the tool presents risk using simple bar charts so that it’s easy to compare the risks for different outcomes related to COVID-19 and vaccines.
CoRiCal may help Australia to move towards 90%, 95%, or even more of the 16-and-over population being fully vaccinated. The higher the rate of vaccination in the population, the better it will be for individuals, communities, mental health, health services, and the country.
CoRiCal had been developed for GPs and other health professionals, it was important that people could easily access this information online without a consultation. The online tool is a collaboration between the Immunisation Coalition, UQ, Flinders University, La Trobe University, and Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Risk calculations in CoRiCal are based on a modelling framework developed by UQ School of Public Health’s Professor Colleen Lau and Dr Helen Mayfield, and QUT’s Professor Kerrie Mengersen.
Queenstown, Singapore’s first satellite town, is set to become a health district as part of a pilot programme aimed to assist residents in living healthier and more productive lives. The Housing and Development Board (HDB), the National University Health System (NUHS), and the National University of Singapore (NUS), in collaboration with several stakeholders from the public, private and people sectors, are embarking on a first-of-its-kind collaboration to establish the Health District @ Queenstown pilot.
Tan Kiat How, Minister of State for National Development and Communications and Information, oversees the Queenstown Health District, along with Rahayu Mahzam, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Communications and Information, and Eric Chua, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and Ministry of Social and Family Development.
Queenstown was chosen as the Health District’s pilot site because its demographics closely resemble Singapore’s expected national demographics by 2030. Currently, the municipality boasts one of the city-oldest state’s populations, with about one in every four Singaporeans aged 65 and above.
We will leverage the broad range of expertise of our partners to create integrated solutions to enhance the health and well-being of residents across their life stages.
– The Housing & Development Board, the National University Health System and the National University of Singapore
There are opportunities to pilot interventions for bettering citizens’ well-being, promoting health-seeking behaviours, and encouraging social connections in conjunction with other forthcoming development and rejuvenation plans for Queenstown. The trial will focus on facilitating intentional longevity by giving participants chances to volunteer, work, and engage in lifelong learning. It also aims to encourage residents to follow preventive health recommendations by moving services from hospitals to or near their homes.
In addition, NUHS will also launch an updated My Health Map initiative to boost residents’ access to preventative health services by providing health screenings to residents on-site when appropriate and holding community health lectures. They can also get suggestions for health exams and vaccines based on their demographics and health status using the app’s My Health Map function. Patients can also use the app to schedule in-person visits, register for a queue number, and view the number of patients ahead of them in the queue.
“The launch of the teleconsultation feature is extremely opportune considering the Covid-19 scenario,” said Ms Clara Sin, chief operating officer of NUH and NUHS’ group service transformation and medical records offices. The agency aims to ensure that all patients receive consistent care and that they do not have to travel to the hospital, especially the elderly.
In an interview conducted by OpenGov Asia, Associate Professor Thomas Lew, Group Chief Data & Strategy Officer, National Healthcare Group, explained that Singapore is a densely connected city-state where the complexities of an internet-enabled telehealth consultation compete with the standard physical visit to the doctor. According to Associate Professor Lew, telehealth must be contextualised for value, grounded on trust-based relationships, in areas such as real-time biological monitoring, and round-the-clock trusted advice and alerts.
“For the healthy population, the potential of health coaching for individuals and organisations has yet to be fully realised. To envision telehealth beyond transactional efficiency much remains to be done,” he explains.
Artificial intelligence and automation services and systems also significantly benefit healthcare. Yet, Associate Professor Lew believes, while AI is not in the consciousness of mainstream healthcare workers, it is ubiquitous without their realisation.
The Housing and Development Board (HDB), the National University of Singapore (NUS), and the National University Health System (NUHS) are also working together to develop affordable and usable technology to improve the lives of residents, beginning with solutions co-developed with residents, caregivers, and family/community support networks. Ultimately, the agencies said that they will collaborate with the industry to test and deploy applicable technology that allows individuals to remain self-sufficient, aids in illness prevention, and enhances healthcare delivery.
COVID-19 has highlighted the important work of the University’s researchers, and how their vital partnerships with government and industry can accelerate real-world outcomes. The University of Sydney announced that is part of the NSW Government’s announcement of a first-of-its-kind Australian pilot facility to develop mRNA and RNA drugs and vaccines to combat disease and save lives.
The $96 million facilities, to be established in partnership with all NSW universities, will include laboratories and pre-clinical trial spaces that will enable early-stage RNA-based drug development. This is a significant milestone in the creation of the RNA ecosystem and future R&D commercialisation, with academics playing a major role in driving developments here in NSW for decades to come. The pilot facility will commence subject to the approval of a final business case.
The region’s Premier stated that the State Government’s funding for the facility aims to attract commercial investment in mRNA and RNA production here in Australia. He noted that the COVID pandemic has demonstrated to the world that it is critically important that we can develop vaccines quickly and for the country to have sovereign capability. He added that the advent of mRNA vaccines and the crucial role they’ve played in getting NSW back on the road to a pandemic recovery is just the beginning of what this incredible emerging medical technology can do.
The University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal was delighted that the University of Sydney is a founding partner on the facility which supports local mRNA and RNA drug and vaccine development. The University will contribute its world-leading expertise and infrastructure to the development and analysis of RNA-based medicines for COVID-19 and a range of other medical conditions.
The Treasurer felt that the facility would be an investment in NSW’s position as a global force in medical research and therapeutics. Supporting the development of high-growth emerging industries such as RNA therapeutics allows the region to not only lead the way in the fight against disease but to boost productivity through innovation and create high-skilled jobs for the future.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier said that the NSW government’s Accelerating R&D in NSW Action Plan will lead future industries and jobs by building strong partnerships between local universities & industry. The NSW government has already announced the formation of the NSW RNA Bioscience Alliance which brings together the best and brightest at the region’s leading universities and research institutes to advance RNA research, development and manufacturing.
The Convener of the NSW Vice-Chancellors’ Committee stated that the investment in the pilot facility is a significant signal that the NSW Government is considering a deeper investment in R&D capabilities that will, in turn, empower the pilot facility to become more commercially viable and attractive to industry investment.
The medical technology sector in Australia is worth $6.1 billion and employs over 36,000 people. Of these businesses, nearly 40 per cent are located in NSW; making the medical technology industry in NSW the largest in Australia. While the sector is growing, there are significant opportunities to accelerate this growth. It is estimated the medical technology industry has the potential to create an additional 28,000 jobs and $18 billion in the gross domestic product (GDP) nationally by 2025.
The NSW Department of Industry has consulted with medical technology stakeholders in the state to develop the NSW medical technology industry development strategy 2018. It consists of a set of five key strategy areas underpinned by initiatives to promote further growth and innovation in the industry. The strategy aims to:
- support industry in commercialising research and development
- grow exports and attract investment into the NSW medical technology sector
- support skills development
- improve connectivity and collaboration within the NSW medical technology industry
- improve the business environment.
The Indian Institute of Technology in Madras (IIT-Madras) recently announced it would launch an advanced diploma programme in virtual reality in association with a Japanese research firm offering niche courses in media and emerging technologies. The course is being coordinated by IIT Madras’s Centre of Excellence on Virtual Reality and Haptics, set up under the government’s Institute of Eminence initiative. The key objective is to serve the increased needs of professionals skilled in virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality (XR), and haptics technology.
The course will be offered in both online and offline modes and is open for anyone with an engineering background including students currently enrolled in engineering degrees anywhere in the country, a statement noted. Working professionals who are aspiring to upskill in immersive technologies are also eligible. Applications will be made available from November and the first batch shall commence from January 2022. The course will have an annual intake of 50 students. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) on this collaborative initiative was signed between IIT-Madras and a leading Japanese media communication technology company.
As per a news report, an expert from IIT-Madras stated that virtual reality is inherently a practical and interdisciplinary course. Offering experiential and interdisciplinary courses online is quite challenging. Both IIT-Madras and the partner firm have taken this as an opportunity to offer a course like this for the first time in India. Virtual reality is a powerful technology in which the human senses are artificially stimulated. Using computer programmes, this technology allows a user to interact with a computer-simulated environment to experience, feel, and touch the images of the past, present, and future. Graduates of this course will have potential job opportunities in sectors ranging from IT, animation, architecture, and engineering to healthcare and media production.
Experiential and immersive technology is rapidly developing and transforming key industries from architecture and engineering to healthcare and media production. Various studies and research papers on immersive technology suggest that it has the potential to boost the global economy by US$1.5 trillion by adding 23 million jobs globally, including new jobs that do not exist now, or by enhancing the existing jobs by 2030. This economic growth is under threat due to the lack of availability of skilled resources for employers across the globe.
In August, IIT-Madras inaugurated the country’s first consortium for Virtual Reality called ‘Consortium for VR/AR/MR Engineering Mission in India’ (CAVE). The consortium comprises a group of academic institutions, industries, start-ups, and government bodies. It will enable members to create new advanced technologies and applications in virtual reality, augmented reality, XR, and haptics technology.
According to a news report, the consortium will promote best practices and create a dialogue with stakeholders, government policymakers, and research institutions. It aims to become a resource for industry, academia, consumers, and policymakers interested in virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. The key outcomes envisaged from CAVE include developing indigenous VR/AR/MR and haptics hardware and software and setting up a ‘VR Superhighway’ or ‘VR Corridor’ where many start-ups and industries and work together for a bigger mission to make India a global hub for XR and haptics needs.
Singapore’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Gan Kim Yong, stated that the country is considering several options to decarbonise its power grid, including boosting solar power and importing low-carbon energy from the region. Mr Gan spoke at the inaugural Singapore Green Plan Conversation hosted by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Mr Gan also stated that the country intends to use regional electricity systems. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project has also begun, with cross-border power trading of up to 100MW between the four nations participating.
Over the last five years, Singapore’s solar energy capacity has increased by more than sixfold. By 2030, the goal is to increase solar energy deployment by fivefold to at least two gigawatts, which would power roughly 350,000 homes annually.
“We are embarking on a trial with Malaysia to import up to 100MW of electricity. This trial will allow us to build up our knowledge on larger-scale low-carbon imports from the region,” he added. “For us, climate change is an existential challenge.”
Singapore is a small city-state – without natural resources, land, nor climatic conditions for large-scale deployment of renewable energy sources. We, therefore, take sustainable development very seriously.
– Gan Kim Yong, Singapore’s Minister of Trade and Industry
The Singapore Green Plan 2030 was unveiled earlier this year as a plan for the country’s carbon reduction efforts. City in Nature, Sustainable Living, Energy Reset, Green Economy, and Resilient Future are the five pillars of the strategy. Ministers of state for trade and industry Low Yen Ling and Alvin Tan also attended the Singapore Green Plan Conversation, which intended to engage businesses and representatives from trade sectors.
The minister went on to say that the green economy will open up new doors for Singapore. “Singapore has the potential to become a carbon services centre. Companies will demand competence to control their carbon footprint as the world moves toward a low-carbon future. We aim to work with regional stakeholders to help them achieve their decarbonisation goals “he remarked. In addition, companies and employees are also urged to improve their competencies and seize new chances.
OpenGov Asia reported that per a joint press release from two countries, Singapore will join Australia in drafting a Green Economy Agreement (GEA). The cooperation intends to hasten both countries’ transition to a greener, more sustainable future, while also creating jobs and reducing carbon emissions. The agreement will highlight initiatives to encourage and ease trade and investment, with an emphasis on reducing regulatory burdens on businesses. It also aims to eliminate non-tariff obstacles to trade in environmental goods and services and to speed up the adoption of low-emission green technology.
The countries claimed this “world-first agreement” will deepen their bilateral connection through strengthened economic and environmental relations in a joint vision statement released following the conference. The agreement’s larger goal is to serve as a guide for multilateral and regional policy development by establishing policies, standards, and initiatives that will not only create good jobs in green growth sectors but also strengthen environmental governance and global capacity to deal with environmental issues.
Singapore and Australia already have an open, liberalised trade and investment relationship and are both prominent proponents of a global trading system based on open norms. Singapore is also collaborating with Australia on a solar power project that would provide green energy to Singapore via a 4,200-kilometre underwater cable from Darwin, Australia.
Moreover, the Singapore government is following up on the results of two feasibility studies, one on low-carbon hydrogen and the other on carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) technology. As a developing country with limited access to alternative energy, these technologies are likely to play an essential part in the country’s transition to a low-carbon future.
Finally, the CCUS technology will assist the government in meeting its climate action obligations and goals, as outlined in the upgraded 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution and Long-Term Low-Emissions Development Strategy, as well as the Singapore Green Plan 2030.
Minister of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology, Nadiem Makarim has called for the simultaneous development of artificial intelligence and character intelligence on the part of its users and creators. The minister emphasised that artificial intelligence has been in development for at least two decades and is now a part of people’s daily lives in the country.
Administrative duties, which are typically a burden for lecturers during the accreditation application process, can now be facilitated using technology. Education will also become more personal as students will be able to develop themselves based on their interests and skills. Makarim encouraged students to develop not only their general intelligence but also their character to face future challenges.
“The development of science and the global situation will accelerate the application of AI in various fields and will have a massive impact on the world of work in the future. This will be unavoidable, and we cannot stop it,” he noted.
The minister was confident that AI will help in the future in addressing a variety of issues, including those faced by educational institutions such as universities. According to him, AI will assist the university in accelerating the quality of its institution and education, which is in line with the purpose of Freedom Study – Freedom Campus.
“The ability to work in a group, a sense of global unity, creativity, independence, and resilience are all important. These are the traits that we need to imbibe to survive amid fast-changing times,” he stressed.
Makarim also expressed hope that Indonesian students would use technology wisely so that they would be prepared to confront the future with a wealth of novel solutions that they could readily implement. With present technical advancements, future problems will be difficult. The Minister believes that, in the spirit of Freedom Campus, students may be the solution for people in Indonesia and around the world.
Another Indonesian Ed-tech start-up recently developed an AI-based system for improving students’ general knowledge in three fundamental subjects: mathematics, verbal logic, and English. The AI system has two main features, one of which is the ability to practise with hundreds of thousands of questions from three main concentration branches, such as verbal logic, mathematics, and English, which can be adjusted to everyone’s level of understanding. Meanwhile, the other feature provides a variety of insightful knowledge such as philosophy, basic sciences, and history that can be used to support and expand users’ insights and perspectives.
In addition, the government has announced a national strategy for artificial intelligence development, but experts are demanding assurances that advancement in this high-tech subject is both safe and useful to all.
At a time when governments and businesses around the world are rapidly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) for solutions in law enforcement, finance, and health care, Jakarta unveiled a strategy that would guide Indonesia in developing AI between 2020 and 2045.
Bambang Brodjonegoro, Minister of Research and Technology and Head of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), mentioned that the country’s AI projects would focus on education and research, health services, bureaucratic reform, food security, mobility, and smart cities.
OpenGov Asia reported that artificial intelligence has grown in popularity in today’s world. It refers to the simulation of natural intelligence in machines that have been programmed to learn and mimic human actions. These machines can learn and perform human-like tasks as they gain experience. As artificial intelligence technology advances, it will have a significant impact on our quality of life. It is only natural that everyone today wants to connect with AI technology in some way, whether as an end-user or by pursuing a career in AI.
In general, AI and digital technology are assisting in the removal of barriers and the expansion of educational opportunities for learners all over the world. Intelligent web search and recommendation engines can help students find the information and resources they need to advance their education.