There is an increasing amount of problems with the demand to supply ratio of doctors versus patients in developing countries. WHO reveals that 45% of member states report to have less than 1 physician per 1000 patients. Advancements are being made in telehealth, a platform for online care between patients & doctors. Although, telemedicine is technologically limited & lacks 3D visualization.
Virtuary is focused on creating VR platforms with SickKids to connect doctors and patients worldwide through virtual hospitals, reinventing the technology deploying telemedicine.
We develop adaptations of physical hospitals and put them into the VR world, so doctors could view patients through a 3D lens, decreasing the rate of misdiagnosis. Using SLAM, we can detect an object’s motion in real time and translate that to the virtual world. If doctors were walk around in real-time, that is what would translate to the virtual hospital.
VR equipment is used to stimulate one’s senses to make them interact with the environment.
Doctors would have to use the VR equipment to connect with another patient over the virtual platform. Doctors have the choice to interact and virtually see the hospital environment from another clinic, view the other patients or the database storing their 3D virtual organs.
Experts here could train local doctors in developing countries by guiding them through VR surgery if both clinics are logged onto the interface at the same time. To get better visualization & measurements, full body scans are needed to virtually communicate/guide during surgical stimulation.
What inspired you (or your team)?
Working in an environment where I am so close to patients on their last leg of life, I get inspired everyday by those around me who constantly allow me to grow better, be better and do better, not only for myself-but for the rest of the world.
I perform a lot of research in the cardiac genomics section of the Hospital for Sick Children, and that also means I have the privilege of interacting with a lot of young patients suffering due to cardiac disorders. Recently, I connected with a patient the same age as me, who had a really rare genetic disorder, Pulmonary Vein Stenosis. This patient in particular is the reason I feel strongly towards spreading the message of the global health crisis and taking action towards it.
One day we were having a conversation and then she started telling me about how she really wanted to change the world and impact billions of people, but she physically couldn’t. She got diagnosed a few years ago, but to her, every single year that passed by, also meant a year she wasn’t going out there and doing amazing things, or solving world issues. So naturally, I was curious as to why she wanted to do all this. I mean, shouldn’t she be thinking about things like her next math test or getting ready for a school dance?
She responded by looking me in the eye and saying, “Because I’m grateful. No matter what, I know that I’ll be taken care of. I’m so lucky to be in a part of the world that puts our health as a first priority. I’m not in other countries that don’t have advancing medical resources to keep their citizens alive.”
Let’s just say I was in complete shock.
For this patient to be telling me that they feel privileged to be here in spite of everything that she went through, in spite of everything that she is going to go through is absolutely crazy, because she still wants to live for a cause greater than herself, she still wants to impact someone greater than herself. I hear many people in my life including my network personally and professionally talk about this idea of “gratitude” and”realizing your own privilege”, but I never fully internalized it until that day when I had that conversation with that patient-for the first time, that realization of gratitude turned from a concept into a reality.
From that day on, I started thinking about how I have literally everything as a young teenager: a roof over head, amazing people in my life, basic resources to survive-while so many people don’t. They don’t have that one right that everyone should have access to, the right to a basic infrastructure for medical care. The only difference between the patient that I connected to, and another one halfway across the world, is that they have access to the world’s leading experts in technology, medicine and research.
They can go to sleep knowing there’s someone tirelessly and relentlessly working to find a cure for them, to give them a fighting chance. But that person halfway across the world doesn’t. And that’s the new normal to over 50% of our world’s population. They don’t have the same support system, or any support system for that matter.
And what does our side, the privileged part of the world, do? We forget that global health issues is not only a you, or a them problem, but rather an us problem. We don’t turn responsibility into opportunity, challenge into a chance for change. We focus on developing 100% of innovation for only 20% of our planet, rather than creating 100% of life saving technology for our entire population.
Being part of this incredible community at SickKids, perform research, conduct projects and meet with industry leaders, my favorite part of the job to this day is still interacting with my patients and learning their stories, learning how they want to change the world. I realized that through all these experiences the one thing that still stands is the patient’s passion to wanting to make our world a better place.
And I can learn from that. If these patients, at such a vulnerable stage can still think about someone that is not themselves, then me having privilege, the ability to do better can not only envision that change-but bring it about as well.
There are thousands of patients in developing countries suffering on a daily basis to acquire access to medical care or receive opinions from experts in the field, simply because of the place they grew up in.
This platform Virtuary is more than just a way to redefine innovation in medicine, or reinvent telemedical models, it’s a way to create a support network for those suffering in developing countries from some of the most innovative hospitals in the world-there’s nothing more valuable than that.
Not every story ends with a happy ending though. Unfortunately my patient passed away before she could have the chance to change the world.
But she passed knowing that a greater future lies ahead for us, that collectively, we could change the epidemic of the planet and focus on creating a better tomorrow. She died as someone who would stop at nothing to believe in the power of the human race, and she said it all starts with believing in that possibility that we can do better, grow better and be better.
I won’t let the talent that we lost on this planet die in vain, and I don’t get to spend the rest of what would have been her life not continuing her efforts to cater our resources of the present, for the future of the planet. Whic h is why I want to spread this message, a message that will give a chance for another patient to live and thrive halfway across the world, the same way she wasn’t able to.
Everyone’s story for why they do things are different according to their situation and environment, but my story behind my inspiration is reflective of the change I want to make and the privilege I opened my eyes to at such a young age. I had many chances to share my story at conferences such as Evoke (IBM’s leading software development conference), Vector Institute at maRS, and many research seminars at the hospital for Sick Children.
Yet every time I always feel like it’s the first time I’m displaying a story that is so raw, true and is the sole reason I’m so passionate about solving this issue. Because it’s not just a talk, it’s not just 15 minutes on stage, it’s a message. A message that a problem for us, automatically means a problem for our humanity. And it’s a problem that we can solve, by leveraging emerging technology like VR to change the interface of global health. With this new platform, we are currently scaling to organizations such as MSF, United Nations and other hospitals around the world. For more information about VR+global health projects, you can check out my website at riyam.me.