Using the Virtual Psychological Human to Revolutionise Care
Dr Peter Kohl of Oxford University has a dream. A dream of using virtual reality models of the body's organs that simulate both structurally and functionally to revolutionise both our understanding and treatment provision to patients.
He is one of the lead instigators on the Virtual Psychological Human or VPH project being funded by the European Union, which he hopes will see results within the next 5-10 years.
He feels that for decades biology has focussed on tearing the body down into isolated component pieces, and now its time to stop doing that, and build back up from those components into a holistic approach once again.
However, Dr Kohl believes a complete model of the body will never be finished.
Dr Kohl that these simulations need to be assessed thoroughly, rather than just taking whichever approach produces a model that seems to match the patient exactly, as only by comparing a thorough model with the differences experienced by the patient, will anything be learnt.
Use In Care
Currently, if a patient has been admitted to hospital, before a major surgery, a diagnostic scan and blood workup will be done, to verify the current state of things inside the patient. At the best and most efficient facilities, this currently takes 45 minutes to come back to doctors. During these 45 minutes, there is a window, not currently utilised, whereby the DICOM/PACs digital scan data, which comes back immediately, could be compared to VPH visualisation data, to note the differences between the patient's organ of concern, and a fully functional organ both static and in real-time operation. This would highlight individual muscle filaments, nerve channels, and areas of concern not just in the immediate malfunction site, but around it, perhaps feeding into it as well. This kind of data would give surgeons a much greater understanding of the problem, in the run up to working on it.
By seeing the differences, and the interplay of the patient's heart muscles for example, they might decide the best place to attack is not where the symptoms are exhibiting after all, but rather a knot of tissue that is somewhat away from the problem site, but which their visualisation data shows is actually driving the problem.
The result of all this visualisation work should be a swifter, more accurate
surgical procedure with less invasion into the body's systems, since the cause
of a problem can be accurately targeted. On the flip side of course, fewer complications
and shorter recovery time, putting patients back on their feet and avoiding
Of course, the whole idea is a radical departure from traditional clinical work, which may worry ptients and practitioners alike.
Perhaps Dr Kohl's argument on this topic, makes the most sense:
"Why should a quantitative computer model be any less reliable than a doctor-based in-brain assessment of a patient? "