By Andrew Liszewski
In an effort to help doctors better diagnose patients who are at the beginning stages of congestive heart failure, AstraZeneca created the Heart FXPod which is a 53-foot-long tractor trailer outfitted with 5 virtual reality stations. Each simulator uses a special chair, a set of foot pedals and a pneumatic vest that allows doctors to physically experience the early symptoms of heart failure including chest tightness, fatigue and shortness of breath.
Inside the completed Heart FXPod, seated physicians watch an interactive video featuring Hank, a CHF patient, as he tries to take a walk in the park. As Hank’s condition worsens, he has a harder time walking, and consequently, the physicians have a harder time pedaling. When Hank tires even more, the physicians start feeling the effects of CHF as their pneumatic vests tighten, constricting their breathing. They even experience Hank’s elevated heart rate by way of an audio system built into the chair that is so effective it feels as if their own hearts are racing. “It’s an interesting physiological experience,” says Raymond. “After going through the simulation, many doctors said, ‘Wow, I had no idea it was this intense this early on.’”
The article is actually a case study for the Mac mini on the Apple website, so you have to wade through a bit of ‘Apple is awesome, Windows is not’ crap, but the bottom line is that after experiencing the simulations a doctor will have a better understanding of what heart failure feels like, and will be better equipped to recognize the symptoms at the earliest stages.