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Is Healthcare Moving Toward a 3D EHR?

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   February 16, 2024

Sharp HealthCare has launched the Spatial Computing Center of Excellence, a new research hub aimed at turning VR technology like the Apple Vision Pro into a clinical tool

While many health systems see the new Apple Vision Pro as a consumer device, executives at Sharp HealthCare are taking a close look at what it can do for clinicians.

The San Diego-based health system recently opened the Spatial Computing Center of Excellence, an innovation center aimed at studying the healthcare applications of AR and VR technology. The center, launched in a collaboration with Epic and Elsevier, is the latest initiative to come out of the year-old Sharp Prebys Innovation and Education Center.

“This is a completely different form factor that opens up a lot of opportunities in healthcare,” says Brian Lichtenstein, Sharp’s associate chief medical informatics officer. “In the spatial realm, we have a chance to move beyond the limitations of the EHR.”

While AR and VR technology has long been focused on gaming, other industries are starting to see the value. Healthcare is no different, as health systems like Cedars-Sinai and Boston Children’s have, for the last few years, developed AR and VR programs to address health concerns like pain management, childbirth, mental health issues, and pediatric care. Cedars-Sinai, which hosts a virtual medicine conference called vMed, recently debuted an AI-enhanced app for mental health treatment designed exclusively for the Apple Vision Pro headset.

At Sharp HealthCare, though, the interest for now is solely on the clinician ranks, which are dealing with stress and burnout associated with overflowing workflows and seeing their numbers decrease. This is where Lichtenstein and his colleagues hope the technology can ease workflow pressures and make life easier for doctors and nurses.

“We’re looking at a new way of enabling humans to interact with computers,” says Dan Exley, Sharp’s vice president of clinical systems.

The new research center is closely aligned with Apple and has purchased 30 Vision Pro headsets to get the ball rolling. The latest iteration of the VR technology was initially teased in a video last June and made available to the public at the beginning of February—at a price of $3,500.

Michael Reagin, MBA, CHCIO, Sharp’s SVP and chief information and innovation officer, says Apple has been a longtime partner of the health system, and that partnership gives Sharp clinicians and engineers an opportunity to work not only with top-line technology but a consumer-facing device that has made a considerable impact in the public space. That understanding of consumer needs will be important as the health system looks at how this technology can be used in healthcare.

“We have to be at the forefront of developing these resources,” he says.

Tommy Korn, MD, an ophthalmologist and digital health innovator with the Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, says the timing is right because the health system is undertaking a major transition from four separate EHR platforms down to one Epic platform. This gives them the opportunity to develop projects that integrate better with the new platform.

He, Lichtenstein, and Exley all envision using the Apple Vision Pro to give doctors and nurses a new way of working with data, visualizing healthcare delivery, and interacting with their patients. Where clinicians now often labor to work with an EHR through a computer or laptop, a spatial computing app could create a 3D EHR, giving clinicians and patients a different look at healthcare conditions and how treatments affect the human body.

Exley, calling VR an “infinite canvas connected to infinite computing power,” says Epic has already developed an app for the Apple Vision Pro, and he envisions early uses for the technology in places like radiology and surgery. In addition, he says, the Spatial Computing Center of Excellence can draw on recent advances in AI technology and cloud computing to improve use cases.

“We want to see content that is driven by context,” Lichtenstein adds.

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation at HealthLeaders.


Sharp HealthCare’s Spatial Computing Center of Excellence brings together clinicians and technicians to explore new uses for AR and VR technology. The center has purchased 30 Apple Vision Pro headsets to start the research.

Health systems like Cedars-Sinai have studied AR and VR technology in healthcare for years, developing tools to help with pain management, childbirth, mental health issues, and cardiac care.

Sharp’s goal is to develop the tool to help clinicians and nurses improve care delivery, with form factors that could include a 3D EHR.

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