Healthcare has always been one of the complex industries, but the 21st century has blurred the lines of reality and imagination with augmented reality in healthcare. Augmented reality has paved a new way and has bought many unprecedented changes. A recent report indicates that the virtual and augmented reality market in healthcare will soon reach $9.7 million in the next 5 years.
However, these tremendous changes in healthcare are paving the way for new challenges, like:
Soaring costs of the healthcare industry
New technological innovations
Personalized patient experience
Increased effort to deliver healthcare to remote areas.
Due to all these changes, doctors and medical staff are under constant pressure to deliver their best services and medical care to their patients. But with the change in technology and AR, the healthcare industry is redefining its ways.
Today, the healthcare industry is expanding the use of connected devices, coupled with 3D AR annotations and machine learning to cope with transforming medical services and improving the quality of patient care.
Mobile phones, smart wearables, laptops, and head-mounted displays drive this new interaction between the real world and virtual objects. For example, by wearing an AR-enabled device, surgeons can view patient vitals during a procedure without looking away and gathering data from multiple displays. By doing so, surgeons are less likely to make errors due to misreading or misinterpreting the data.
Thus, by adopting augmented reality in healthcare, enterprises are taking their first step toward digitization and providing the correct value to their patients.
Benefits of AR in Healthcare
Although the use of AR in healthcare is not new, it has exploded exponentially in recent years. According to Markets and Markets, VR and AR market for the healthcare industry will grow at a rate of 30.7% per year by 2025.
The Augmented Reality technology collects information from all enterprise channels and then provides access to this information to the frontline workers responsible for completing a task. This type of interaction was appreciated during the pandemic, as it is way safer than interaction through physical proximity.
Thus, let’s have a look at some of the noble benefits of AR in healthcare:
1. Surgical Assistance
With AR, life science enterprises, hospitals, and healthcare sectors can create 3D models of tumors or organs of the patient. The surgeons can use these 3D models as a reference to view the model through a hands-free headset when performing surgery. The 3D annotation model hovers as a hologram over the surgical field to guide the surgeon. The incisions and other surgical procedures can get superimposed on the patient’s real-time image in the form of directions so that the surgeon can see and follow the correct path for the surgery.
2. Remote Guidance
In certain complicated cases, doctors need expert opinion and guidance to provide the best healthcare to their patients. Thus, the live video call sessions and audio headsets give experts the same view of the patient. This way, the specialist can guide the doctors in real-time or through surgery for better treatment.
3. Medical Training of the Workforce
Another benefit of adopting AR in healthcare facilities is you can train your workforce – from dentists and medical practitioners to medical students. A remote mentor can provide guidelines and work instructions to medical practitioners and students on conducting a procedure and diagnosis from any location. Students will benefit by learning from the expert, getting hands-on experience working with medical equipment, and giving their patients the best medical care.
4. Diagnosis and 3D Imaging
Augmented reality 3D annotations and remote visual assistance in healthcare are helpful for patient diagnoses and care. It allows the healthcare staff to gather patient details, reports, and statistics. With the power of AR, you can perform full-body scans to visualize the symptoms and know the best diagnosis for your patient. It reduces the need for personal PPE by minimizing the contact between hospital staff and patients.
5. Telehealth and Proctoring
Due to the pandemic, the telehealth industry has seen sudden growth. One of the main reasons for this growth is AR remote assistance and related solutions from worldwide. Today, patients from remote locations can fix their appointments with expert doctors and surgeons over a call and receive their diagnoses in real time. The patient does not need to expose themselves to the danger of contamination by any infectious disease and can still get face-to-face interactions with an expert.
The application of AR in healthcare is vast, from surgical simulations for doctors to plan surgery, lifestyle management, and high-resolution imaging diagnostics with 3D AR annotations to patient care. You can do it all under the umbrella of AR and provide the best health to your end users.
Here are some of the top applications of AR in healthcare:
1. Immersive and Interactive Medical Training
A report by AAMC states that the USA can see an estimated shortage of 124,000 physicians by 2034. The main reason for this is that it needs more equipment, tools, and machinery to provide immersive training to employees. However, AR’s 3D annotations and virtual training provide deeper insights into how the human body functions.
Today, doctors don’t need traditional study materials and cadaver dissections to assist themselves. They can invest in an AR platform with digitized manuals, work instructions in real-time, and a self-assisting platform with 3D AR annotations to make their learning more fun.
Many institutions have already started using AR to train their students and make them better professionals. An Ohio-based Case Western Reserve University uses Microsoft HoloLens devices to study human anatomy through 3D AR annotations.
2. Training Physicians on New Therapies
Many life-science enterprises are using AR to educate care providers about the latest therapies and drugs to improve treatment outcomes and improve patients’ health. Companies can create compelling 3D annotations and illustrations and provide paperless manuals and digital work instructions for a specific procedure.
With the application of AR in your day-to-day operations, you can enhance the collaboration between the pharmaceutical community, doctors, physicians, and patients. The information collected by doctors using AR can be used for future research and development and rational decision-making.
The scientists at Sygnature Discovery are using 3D AR annotations and smart glasses to discover the new-age drugs that can help patients get cured faster. The space occupied by a drug molecule is in 3 dimensions; with the help of 3D rendering software, medicinal chemists can visualize the shape of molecules and manipulate them to find new drugs that can help with a patient’s diagnosis.
3. Virtualizing Surgeries
Surgeons can use AR to create 3D digital models of complicated surgeries, digitized instructions, step-by-step SOPs, and critical deviations to plan and execute their complex surgeries. The step-by-step SOPs will give surgeons a detailed view of the operation to conduct an in-depth virtual analysis of the process.
Through in-depth analysis, surgeons can better handle contingencies, lay out a course of action, and review the process before performing the operation. By using AR, surgeons can eliminate the attention shift to a separate screen and decrease the radiation exposure to the patients.
In Chicago, Augmedics has developed an AR surgical guidance system – xvision Spine System- that allows surgeons to “see” patients’ anatomy through the skin just like an x-ray and provide the proper diagnosis. Surgeons can also use this platform to navigate instruments accurately and implantations during spine procedures.
4. Detection of Symptoms
Many patients find it challenging to talk to their doctors about their symptoms. Some might exaggerate them, while others might share minimal information about them. This could result in confusion, incorrect diagnosis, improper medical care, and inaccurate dose of medicines.
However, with the help of AR, healthcare centers can provide patients with a handy way to check their symptoms and current status. They can also connect with a doctor in real-time through telehealth and receive advice. Doctors can check these reports for accuracy and suggest remedies to relieve their patients.
EyeDecide AR app uses a camera display to simulate patients’ eye inspections and conditions, give them necessary solutions, and find the best doctor to treat patients. The app describes the state of the patient’s eye, annotates its symptoms, does medical image analysis, and suggests the best treatment. Thus, it becomes easier for doctors to examine patients’ symptoms. Also, the patient doesn’t feel any communication gap, and no critical dialogue is missed between the patient and the medic.
5. Patient Self-Care
With AR-powered applications, patients become proactive and care for their health better. Physiotherapy and physical rehabilitations are two areas that are more beneficial with AR solutions. How? Through remote assistance, doctors and physio experts can digitally demonstrate their bodily motions to restore their health.
These AR apps have all the details of nearby hospitals and medical centers so doctors can reach remote locations to provide their supervision. Through AR-based self-care applications, it becomes easier for doctors to provide the proper diagnosis to their patients.
Know My Heart is one of the applications designed to enable patients’ pulse rate by themselves and detect possible atrial fibrillation. These regulatory measures make it easier for patients to get prescribed medication and seek timely help whenever needed.
6. Vein Visualization
Collecting blood samples or injecting shots into the patients is an unpleasant and painful experience for many patients, especially if the medical staff misses the vein in the first instance. However, with AR handheld scanners and near-infrared imaging, it becomes easier for nurses to see the vein and take blood.
With these AR handheld scanners, it becomes easier for hospitals and medical staff to improve the first injection success ratio. It has become much easier for new medical staff trainees to detect the patients’ veins and give them a painless experience.
AccuVein’s vein finder uses AR technology to find veins on the first try for an IV or drawing of blood. The vein finder is a portable device with a digital laser projection, scanner, and processing system that helps examine the patient faster.
AR Impact on Healthcare
Augmented Reality (AR) has made a significant impact in the healthcare industry, offering innovative solutions and enhancing various aspects of medical imaging, education, and training. Here are some ways AR is transforming healthcare:
Enhanced Medical Imaging
AR technology allows medical professionals to integrate digital information onto real-world medical images, such as MRI and CT scans. By overlaying 3D annotations and visual cues onto these images, physicians can gain a better understanding of a patient’s condition, identify anomalies, and plan treatment strategies with greater accuracy.
Medical Education and Training
AR is revolutionizing medical education by providing immersive and interactive learning experiences. Medical students and healthcare practitioners can use AR simulations to practice surgical procedures, explore anatomical structures, and learn complex medical concepts. This hands-on approach enhances knowledge retention and improves skill development.
AR is finding applications in dentistry for patient education and treatment planning. Dentists can use AR to show patients a visual representation of their dental conditions and treatment options, enabling better communication and understanding between dentists and patients.
AR is proving to be valuable in nurses’ training programs, offering realistic and dynamic scenarios for skill development. Through AR simulations, nurses can practice various procedures, improve their critical thinking, and enhance their ability to handle emergency situations.
Surgical Assistance and Navigation
Surgeons can benefit from AR during surgeries by using AR headsets or displays to overlay patient information and surgical guidance directly onto their field of view. This real-time information helps in precise navigation and reduces the risk of errors during complex procedures.
AR is contributing to the growth of telemedicine by providing augmented views of patients during virtual consultations. Physicians can use AR overlays to examine patients remotely, offer guidance, and make accurate diagnoses without physical presence.
Surgical Planning and Simulation
AR enables surgeons to create 3D digital models of patients’ anatomies, allowing them to simulate surgeries before performing them in the operating room. This pre-operative planning enhances surgical precision and improves patient outcomes.
VRARA Digital Health Committee conducted an industry survey to understand the current state of the VR/AR healthcare market and identify its challenges in adoption.
Here’s the result of this survey:
1. Cost of Monetary Funding
Most respondents are VR/AR startups still trying to find their footing in the industry. They are trying to create AR/VR content and provide end-to-end solutions for better collaboration. However, one of the biggest hurdles for them is money. They can invest in product development, research, and other liable marketing costs with proper funding.
Even though AR for healthcare is still in its infancy stage, the future seems bright. Why? Because technology innovators and visionaries are willing to demo, refine and evangelize widely marketable applications. Thus, it will take a little while before investors and customers start to fund best-in-class AR solutions for healthcare.
Seeing the many benefits of AR in the healthcare industry, like pain diminution, surgical planning, training of new medical staff, 3D radiological imaging, and more, hospitals are increasing their budget and investing in AR technology and equipment. Many third-party companies are also interested in providing monetary funds to the healthcare industry.
2. Technical Issues
The healthcare industry is still hesitant about AR solutions because they are relatively new to the industry and can be used in a broad category. Some computer specifications and resolutions of available devices can possess a limitation.
Another factor is that AR in the healthcare industry is still developing. Thus, it will only improve over time and play a competitive role in the market. However, the healthcare industry is working towards an apt solution.
3. Clinical Organizational Issues
The healthcare industry is generally hard to change as it has a very strict bureaucracy that takes work to sway. For example, Electrical medical records have been part of the healthcare industry for almost two decades. Still, there are so many hospitals that keep everything on paper. Due to this, these records are easy to vanish in thin air.
Here are a few aspects of modern clinical organizations that delay the adoption of AR technology:
Unavailability and accessibility of smart infrastructure
Procurement procedures that include vendors’ reactions, complex processes, and more
However, AR solutions are most likely to be adopted more quickly as they are compatible with all your devices like smartphones, computers, laptops, AR headsets, etc. Thus, the medical staff in the healthcare industry can quickly adopt these solutions and use them for their benefit.
4. Lack of Knowledge
Unfortunately, the masses link AR to the gaming and entertainment industry and aren’t aware of AR’s use cases in the healthcare industry. Due to this, they can’t fathom what it would be like to adopt AR solutions in their enterprise and increase their efficiency.
However, disseminating knowledge about augmented reality is very important for people working in the healthcare industry. Getting a demo for your first AR experience is intuitive, but only some people can use the technology for their benefit.
Thus, understanding the immersion of AR in your day-to-day operations is better done through one’s own eyes, so adopt them today.
5. Regulatory issues
To bring any change in the healthcare industry, an enterprise needs to take care of a long list of rules, regulations, and insurance policies. These regulatory issues make the adoption of AR solutions more complex, and industries comply with all the rules without missing out on anything.
AR Trends in Healthcare
Augmented Reality (AR) with robotic-assisted surgery is significantly enhancing the precision and effectiveness of intricate medical procedures. By providing real-time overlays of critical information during surgeries, AR guides surgeons’ movements and aids in making well-informed decisions, resulting in improved surgical outcomes and patient safety.
Advanced Wound Care Management
AR is reshaping wound care management with innovative solutions for wound assessment and treatment. Through AR applications, healthcare professionals can visualize wounds in three dimensions, monitor the progress of healing, and devise personalized care plans. This application is accelerating wound recovery and ensuring better patient comfort throughout the healing process.
Empowering Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation
Augmented Reality is empowering physical therapy and rehabilitation by offering interactive exercises and visual feedback to patients. AR-based applications assist patients in executing correct movements, track their progress, and keep them motivated during the recovery journey. This trend fosters higher patient engagement and leads to more favorable therapy outcomes.
Accessing Real-Time Patient Records
AR technology enables healthcare professionals to access real-time patient records and vital information through AR-enabled devices. This advancement streamlines clinical workflows, facilitates well-informed decision-making at the point of care, and ensures accurate and up-to-date data for improved patient management.
Seamless Hospital Navigation
AR is revolutionizing hospital navigation, making it more intuitive and efficient for patients, visitors, and medical staff. AR wayfinding applications provide step-by-step directions, floor plans, and points of interest, simplifying navigation within hospital facilities. This trend alleviates navigation-related stress and enhances the overall patient experience within healthcare settings.
Tips for using AR in Healthcare
As a future-thinking entrepreneur, you need to make intelligent and rational decisions that can help you integrate AR into your day-today-operations and processes. For the smooth transition and adoption of AR solutions, you must look through and find ways to integrate them with your existing technology.
You can train, upskill, and reskill your employees with AR. Be patient and adequately plan to ensure data security without any breaches while adopting these AR solutions.
Finally, get ready to explore the exciting world of augmented reality. Choose a smart and innovative platform that can help you improve the patient medical experience, increase your staff’s productivity, train the newly hired workforce, and streamline your healthcare processes.
Plutomen’s Role in the Healthcare industry
Plutomen is an AR-led frontline operational platform that help industrial enterprises elevate the potential of their frontline workers. The SaaS platform provides various AR solutions and applies them in various industries.
Plutomen offers customized AR solutions for your workforce that cut extra cost incurred on expert traveling and accommodation, and efficiently address all your business requirements.
Augmented reality is used in healthcare to enhance medical imaging, provide surgical assistance, offer remote guidance for complex cases, train medical workforce, improve patient self-care, visualize veins for blood collection, and facilitate seamless hospital navigation.
The benefits of using augmented reality in healthcare include improved surgical precision, enhanced medical imaging, personalized patient care, remote medical guidance, efficient medical training, and increased patient engagement in self-care.
Yes, augmented reality can greatly benefit medical education and training. It provides immersive and interactive learning experiences, allows for surgical simulations, aids in training physicians on new therapies, and facilitates virtual surgeries and anatomical study with 3D annotations.
Challenges in implementing augmented reality in healthcare include funding constraints for startups, technical issues with devices, resistance to change in clinical organizations, lack of widespread knowledge about AR, and compliance with strict regulatory policies in the healthcare industry.
With 12+ years’ experience in enterprises, Ravi holds expertise in designing user-friendly and experience-enhancing interactive environments based on emerging technologies. He is designated as Chief Design Officer at Plutomen.
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