Dallas-area Hospital Using One Of Those Giant Hologram-ish Displays For Telemedicine

July 2, 2024 by Dave Haynes

A small 84-bed acute care general hospital in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas is using one of those transparent LCD shower stall-like enclosures as a way to run real-time doctor-patient consultations, even though the patients are at a clinic 30 miles away.

It is a VERY expensive variation on telemedicine – the big difference being the doctor is on a life-sized 86-inch LCD display instead of a desktop or wall-mounted flat panel monitor.

The business argument is that better telemedicine tools limit the need for physicians, particularly in-demand specialists, to get in their cars and drive 30-60 minutes to get to distant clinics to see patients in person.

The core element of the program is a big transparent LCD set-up developed by the Dutch firm Holoconnects, which is what patients see. The news coverage is a bit unclear, but I think the studio end of this has the lighting and video capture set-up and a much, much smaller display showing the patient.

The photo below, from the hospital, seems to back that up. Wouldn’t this work better the other way around, with the patient on the bigger screen? As in, “OK, let me have a look at you. Can you turn to the right and lift your left knee?”


The big-boy display supports multi-touch, so it is fully interactive. One of the premises behind this is that enabling oversized telehealth video calls, patients can see at much larger scale, images and tutorials on things like surgical procedures … like what’s involved in hip replacement surgery.

Just about all of the media coverage on this calls the process teleportation, and the screen visuals a hologram and/or 3D. It’s definitely not teleportation, which may be routinely done on Star Trek shows and movies, but is still just a quantum physics theory in the real world.

And it’s not a hologram.

And it’s just 2D. Clever lighting and captured shadows create a visual sense of depth.

This is the same transparent LCD tech you may have seen in some groceries, with the chiller door turned into a screen. In this case, the enclosures that hold the custom edge-lit LCD display include high-end audio speakers and a camera, to drive back and forth interactions.

The big units cost $42,000 USD and there is a $1,900 annual ops fee from the service provider, so this is anything but cheap to pull off. But then again, there’s nothing else budget-friendly about health care, so this sorta fits.

The hospital is considering expanding its use and adding more units, including smaller counter-top units that are no larger than desktop monitors but cost many, many multiples of a conventional 21.5-inch screen.

Telemedicine hits me as one of those services that is not all that great, but much better than nothing. Probably like most readers, I did a video call or two through the pandemic and regarded that as a kind of crappy but necessary compromise, at a time when COVID made 1 to 1 consultations challenging.

I think this set-up would be better than a conventional Zoom or Teams video call, but not hugely so – especially since the patients see the caregiver at full size but the caregiver sees the patient on a much smaller, conventional monitor in landscape mode. That just seems so odd.

But … there can be a lot of emotion and anxiety inherent in doctor-patient interactions. If this makes those sessions better, and the capital and operating costs make sense in some calculation, that’s perhaps what really matters.

Then again, a hospital could have a pair of 86-inch commercial displays with cameras, speakers and multi-touch, for maybe $10K US. Just no hologram-ish visual illusion.

But that set-up wouldn’t get press attention, and in a health care system in which facilities compete for both patients and accredited caregivers, write-ups in Forbes and the NY Times can also matter.

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