Augmented reality is one of the most significant and practical applications that will revolutionize healthcare. Uses of AR technology range from training and education to improving eye-sight and managing aftercare. At this point, application of augmented reality for physicians has reached a stage where it provides a highly realistic and immersive experience to individuals who wish to familiarize themselves with their working environment and establish procedural techniques to memory. The current generations of medical students have grown up in an age that encourages e-learning and so it is a natural progression to use AR to provide further learning experiences.
One of the most innovative and interesting uses of augmented reality in the medical field is live interactive imaging for assisting medical students, doctors and even children. With the help of AR projections, trainee physicians can lift their heads from their textbooks and better visualize the health issues they will one day be treating. These visualizations can also be exceptionally helpful tools for educating children about anatomy by allowing them to peer under the skin to reveal the inner functions of the human body.
Patient education and care management
EyeDecide is a unique medical app which helps educate patients through a new approach. It uses a camera display for simulating the impact that particular conditions may have on an individual’s vision. Such apps that use AR technology can also help doctors to show pre-procedural consent, explain the operating room’s equipment and introduce the surgical team to the patient. What’s more, patient care management can be improved significantly by augmented reality. In other words, doctors will be able to check a patient’s history and feed valuable data into their system within seconds.
Complex surgical planning and performance
Be it any types of surgery, doctors always find it difficult to find the root cause of a particular disease. When it comes to surgery, precision is key and AR can help surgeons become more efficient at this. For example, by wearing Facebook’s Oculus Rift goggles, doctors can virtually navigate through 3D models built from CT and MRI scans. This approach allows them to find the safest path to a hard to reach tumor. AR technology also allows doctors to better visualize the procedures they are performing, even if it is minimally invasive surgery.
Military surgeons and even surgeons in remote parts of the world face performing complex procedures pushing the limits of their training and experience. They will ideally have consulted ahead of time with a mentor by the phone or video conference. With the use of AR technology, surgeons can have their mentor virtually join the procedure while it is underway. VIPAAR (Virtual Interactive Presence and Augmented Reality) uses Google Glass to superimpose a real-time projection of the mentor’s hands into the surgeon’s field of vision. The seemingly high priced $1,500 Google Glass is significantly less than all other types of hospital video conferencing, which can run up to $40,000!
Treatments and therapies
Augmented reality technology can help provide relief and potential solutions to certain conditions such as anxiety, depression, phobias, stress, PTST, and others. Active research and clinical trials are ongoing and the early results appear promising. For example, to treat a fear of heights, a virtual environment with high stories and partially glass floors can be simulated. AR technology can also be used in the field of dermatology to detect skin diseases such as skin cancer. Doctors can monitor worrisome skin lesions and abnormal moles faster and detect any issues early on.
Augmented reality mobile and glass apps can help improve the wellness and fitness approach as well. For example, an individual wearing a smartglass can view work-out related exercises right around their field of vision instead of looking at a mobile app. With platforms such as Bevond, individuals can create their own customized version of an AR-focused healthcare app within just a couple of days.
Pharmacy Benefit Management (PBM)
Pharmacy Benefit Management or PBM is a part of an integrated healthcare system and augmented reality can help make it more efficient. For example, patients wearing Google Glass and having an app installed on the device can get reminders on when to take their medications. The app also offers information on drug overdose, fitness tips, and diet plans depending on an individual’s health condition.
Improved rounds and communication
AR technology is used in the development of a custom Glassware that allows doctors to scan a QR code on the wall of each room in the emergency department to instantly call up information about a patient. As the doctor examines the patient and performs procedures, the Glassware shows vital signs, lab results, alerts and other information. This Glassware also allows a more natural workflow between medical staff and patients. Doctors and patients can communicate during office visits without being interrupted and follow-ups can be done via remote video conferencing rather than onsite visits.
These remarkable examples are just a few ways in which augmented reality is influencing the healthcare industry. AR technology is rapidly gaining significance among healthcare professionals and its capabilities can be used to make complex surgical procedures easier and provide post-operative care. When it comes to medicine and healthcare, AR can not only help save lives, but it can also help healthcare organizations make their existing methods more efficient and precise. Imagine the possibilities of having an app that helps a patient with chronic allergies identify high levels of allergens every morning or helps them pull up their files and check themselves in before arriving at their doctor’s appointment.
Over the last few years, researchers have been using this technology for helping doctors perform surgeries more efficiently, teaching complex subjects to medical students, improving fitness, and much more. Augmented reality has the potential to put timely and relevant information in front of both patients and healthcare professionals when they need it.