The HealthTech industry has always been a trailblazer in bringing visionary ideas to the forefront, leading the charge with monumental contributions to humanity’s welfare. The intersection of healthcare and technology has been experiencing exponential growth. One of the most promising innovations emerging in recent years is the revolutionary use of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies in the healthcare industry.
AR allows users to experience a computer-generated environment overlaid with the real world, while VR creates a simulated world. Although most commonly associated with gaming, AR and VR have numerous applications in healthcare, from training healthcare professionals to improving patient outcomes.
Shaping the Future of Healthcare
The healthcare industry is often grappling with a host of new challenges, including skyrocketing costs, the need for more individualized patient experiences, and the pressing need to deliver care to remote and underserved populations. These issues require innovative solutions and forward-thinking strategies to ensure that everyone has access to the care they need, regardless of their location or financial means.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented event that has upended lives and businesses worldwide, with far-reaching consequences for the foreseeable future. In this new reality, people have had to adapt to new ways of living, working, and interacting with each other, all while striving to maintain a sense of normalcy amidst the chaos. Thanks to digitalisation and advancements in technology, medical training and other vital components of healthcare have been able to shift to a virtual format, a capability that would have been unimaginable just a decade ago.
Reports predict that the implementation of AR and VR in healthcare will surge from $5.1 billion to $6.5 billion by 2025, with a CAGR of 30.7%. This rapid adoption of these cutting-edge technologies will accelerate the digitization of healthcare and usher in a new era of possibilities for payers, healthcare professionals and providers, and medical device manufacturers. They have created a new paradigm in patient care, improved medical training, and streamlined healthcare operations.
Practical Uses in the Medical Field
From surgical simulation to high-resolution imaging, VR and AR are revolutionizing the way doctors and healthcare professionals approach patient care. It is helping patients cope with phobias and stress disorders, as well as providing a much-needed distraction during therapy sessions like chemotherapy. Moreover, VR is proving to be invaluable in lifestyle management, patient rehabilitation, and medical equipment maintenance, ensuring compliance with regulatory standards. For hospitals, minimizing the downtime of critical apparatus is crucial for smooth operations, and VR can help prevent cost-consuming delays and customer dissatisfaction.
AR can be used to train healthcare professionals in a safe and controlled environment. For instance, medical students can use AR to practice surgeries on virtual patients, allowing them to develop their skills before they operate on real patients. The applications can be used to teach biosafety training applications for medical students. A VR environment system for teaching safe behaviours and highlighting the serious role of hand hygiene among healthcare providers and training for emergency conditions (e.g., influenza pandemic, bio-terrorism) with various scenarios.
AR and VR can help surgeons perform surgeries with greater precision. In oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMS), precise image registration and low processing time are crucial. However, current systems face challenges with image registration when matching different posture images, but advancements in AR are making visualisation more convenient in such sensitive surgeries. AR and VR have found significant applications in surgery, including nephrectomy, neurosurgery, orthopaedics, and laparoscopic surgery. These fields require reliability, realism, and accuracy to ensure user comfort and prevent inappropriate handling. AR offers benefits such as low cost, ethical safety, and patient safety during training. Some applications, such as AccuVein, can help find veins more accurately with the power of AR.
Virtual Medical Consultations
AR-based 3D visualizations and simulations can help doctors explain complex medical concepts to their patients with greater clarity. Patients can use AR apps to visualize their medical conditions and receive advice from their physicians. This technology can make healthcare more accessible and convenient, especially for patients who live in remote areas.
Enhancing Patient Experiences
AR can be used to create interactive and engaging experiences for patients. For example, children undergoing medical procedures can use AR apps to distract them from discomfort or pain. Additionally, patients can use AR to visualize how certain treatments will affect their bodies, helping them make informed decisions about their care.
Medical Research and Emergency Management
AR can help researchers visualize complex data and models, leading to a better understanding of medical conditions and diseases. This technology can also help researchers test and refine medical devices and treatments, resulting in more effective outcomes for patients. For example, Microsoft’s HoloLens Headset enables users to view dynamic holographic models of the human body, including muscles and veins.
AR and VR could be used to improve preparedness against pandemics by simulating various aspects of human behaviour and disaster consequences and experiences. For example, they could be used to educate and train healthcare providers to manage and respond to pandemic situations, to study the behaviour of healthcare providers in a controlled virtual environment, and to enhance the geographic information visualization and communication of the social network.
Rehabilitation, Physical Therapy and Mental Health Therapy
AR can be used to create immersive environments for patients undergoing rehabilitation or physical therapy. Patients can use AR apps to visualize and interact with virtual objects, providing a fun and engaging way to perform exercises and track progress.
By implementing a specific mechanism of exposure therapy, patients diagnosed with phobias can confront their fears with the help of AR technology. This approach offers an improvement over traditional exposure therapy as providers have complete control over the stimuli presented to the patient.
Medical Equipment Maintenance
AR can be used to train technicians to maintain and repair medical equipment, reducing downtime and increasing efficiency in healthcare facilities. AR technology can guide technicians through maintenance procedures, providing a more visual and intuitive approach to equipment maintenance.
With these emerging technologies, healthcare providers can deliver a new level of patient care that is personalized, immersive, and intuitive. Patients will be able to visualize their medical conditions and receive expert advice from their physicians. AR and VR are also on the path to redefining medical training. As technological advancements continue, we anticipate more innovative uses shortly that will revolutionize the way we think of healthcare.
Authored by Shloka. N
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