Innovator Spotlight Q&A Series: Min Lang, MD, MSc
The CIDH Innovator Spotlight is a Q&A series that celebrates innovative ideas, highlights the important work that digital health innovators are doing to advance patient care and outcomes at Mass General Hospital, and shares key learnings about the innovation journey.
We are pleased to feature Min Lang, MD, MSc, Radiology Resident, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital; Clinical Fellow, Harvard Medical School; and Innovation Director, AR/VR Lab. Dr. Lang formed the AR/VR Lab in 2020, along with Raul Uppot, MD, to lead the development, testing, and implementation of extended reality technologies.
We believe this new emerging technology can greatly enhance clinical practice, training, and patient experience in ways that are not possible with traditional methods.
Q: Tell us about your innovation and the challenge(s) you were trying to solve.
ML: Imagine performing a biopsy while being able to see the target and internal organs of the patient, practicing a surgical operation unlimited number of times without any risk to patients, or transporting patients to a calming environment in the middle of an examination. Together with Dr. Raul Uppot and Eleni Balasalle, we formed the AR/VR Lab in 2020 to lead the development, testing, and implementation of extended reality technologies that will turn these ideas into reality.
Extended reality is divided into virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). VR creates an immersive simulated virtual environment whereas AR adds virtual information on top of the real world. Both technologies can be leveraged for creative healthcare solutions. We believe this new emerging technology can greatly enhance clinical practice, training, and patient experience in ways that are not possible with traditional methods.
At the AR/VR Lab, we have four areas of focus:
- Clinical Practice: Advancing clinical practice including, bed-side procedures, minimally invasive interventions, surgeries, pre-operative and pre-treatment planning.
- Patient Education and Engagement: Improving patient care, satisfaction, and comfort by creating immersive environments that provide patient education, simulate recovery, and enhance engagement.
- Image Segmentation and Model Creation: Accelerate and improve pre-operative and pre-treatment planning with extended reality-based segmentation tools and model creation.
- Medical Education: Enhance medical education using realistic and interactive extended reality modules that exceed traditional textbooks and lectures in terms of comprehension and memory retention.
Q: The innovation process can be long and challenging, but also rewarding. What inspired you to begin this journey?
ML: I have always been a fan of science fiction books and movies, and am fascinated by the ideas of metaverse, advanced robotics, and life-like artificial intelligence. As a millennial, my generation straddles the before-and-after of major technology advancements such as mobile devices, social media, and artificial intelligence. Seeing the world change rapidly in the past few decades makes the technologies in the books and movies of my childhood seem possible.
During medical school, I got to experience the newly developed augmented reality-based, interactive multi-user platform for anatomy education. This was born through a partnership between my medical school (Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine) and Microsoft. The new curriculum obviated the need for traditional cadaveric dissection and allowed anatomy training to occur anytime and anywhere. During this time, a mentor of mine was also using augmented reality to enhance liver cancer therapy. These early exposures to extended reality made me realize the potential it had to transform healthcare, from medical education to clinical practice.
Gaming, entertainment, finance, and social media industries are often early adopters of innovative technology. Healthcare, however, is generally more conservative when it comes to disruptive technology adoption. I want to change this and help transform the healthcare industry to become a leader of innovation in digital technology.
Q: Please tell us about your overall experience and some of the major milestones you’ve achieved so far? What are the next steps?
ML: The experience has been enriching. I have learned a great deal about starting a lab, forming strategic partnerships, maintaining industry relationships, and conducting clinical studies. At the AR/VR Lab, we have formed collaborations with multiple industry partners to carry out preliminary clinical testing of extended reality products, including augmented reality anatomy education platforms for medical students, virtual reality simulations for bed-side procedures, augmented image overlay for invasive interventions, and virtual modeling of complex 3D anatomy for surgical planning.
We are currently building out a suite of immersive 360° videos to improve the patient experience. For example, one video provides a first person-view of what it’s like to be on the procedural bed undergoing paracentesis and another is a first person-view of what it’s like to undergo a CT scan. We are currently expanding the video library, focusing on patients’ experiences undergoing medical imaging and minimally invasive procedures. Finally, we are developing virtual simulation of hospital spaces such as the emergency department. There are many potential use cases, including renovation/space planning, disaster training/planning, triage training, and supply logistics.
Q: What resources have been most helpful to you, and that you think other MGH innovators would benefit from?
ML: We greatly appreciate all the advice and support from the leadership within the Department of Radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Mass General Brigham Innovation for guiding us through the process of forming industry alliances, IP protection, commercialization, and clinical study design. The Brigham Digital Innovation Hub has also been a tremendous resource for finding clinical collaborators and use case ideation. Collaboration and integration across Mass General Brigham will be important for future MGH innovators to better leverage the larger clinical community.
Q: What advice would you give to other innovators at MGH that you wish you had been given early in your innovation journey?
ML: Don’t be afraid to share your idea with others. Spend time discussing your idea and hypothesis with relevant experts to better understand the scope of the need and the problems you are trying to solve. The idea is only one component of leading a successful innovative project; timing, execution, and user receptivity are equal, and sometimes more important than the idea itself. Finally, don’t develop in isolation. There are many innovative groups at MGH and across MGB that would be more than happy to share helpful resources.