Making Help Real: Augmented Reality in Healthcare

Augmented reality has stopped being considered exclusively as entertainment. Its application in healthcare introduces more efficient ways of treating patients.

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How real is the real world? The advancements of modern technology make the boundary between the real and virtual worlds ever flimsier. The contemporary stage of digital innovation has brought forth the phenomenon known as augmented reality (AR) which consists in using displays, monitors, cameras, and sensors to integrate digital data and images into our physical environment.

AR’s triumphant march all over the planet boomed when one of the most successful apps in history was marketed. Soon afterward, Pokémon hunters crowded city streets searching for virtual creatures with mobile phones in their hands.

Today, augmented and virtual reality are more than entertainment. This technology is being increasingly employed in various spheres, such as business logistics, classroom education, repair and maintenance, design and modeling, and even tourism. However beneficial in these domains it might be, the use of augmented reality in the medical field is likely to be the greatest boon to humankind. Naturally, health is what people value the most. That’s why medicine has gradually become the priority that contemporary science makes a special emphasis on pushing the frontier of the unknown ever further.

Augmented Reality is using to make diagnosis.
Augmented Reality is using to make diagnosis.

Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality: A Difference That Matters

Before we take a closer look at AR in healthcare, it is important to realize how it differs from another bird of the same feather – virtual reality (VR). Despite both being close relatives and brainchildren of our digital age, these two are not identical.

Doctor

Virtual reality provides an immersive experience that you undergo in a totally artificial world, a simulated environment. To be able to enjoy realistic images it generates, you need special equipment – a VR headset that contains a head-mounted display where a small screen is located before your eyes. Once you put it on you find yourself in an artificial reality that you can not only see and hear but also travel around interacting with virtual objects present in it.

The same effect may be achieved by placing a person in a special room whose walls are covered with large screens.

Transplant box

By contrast, augmented reality in medicine, or any sphere for that matter, doesn’t take you away from the real world – it adds virtual objects thus enhancing it. Unlike virtual reality, AR doesn’t require any specialized equipment or premises neither does it incur a sharp learning curve.

Being run on smartphones and tablets in the form of applications, it is accessible for a wider audience which explains its greater popularity in comparison with VR.

Innovation

As eMarketer claims, last year witnessed a prodigious increase in the number of AR users reaching the astounding 70 million in the USA alone which is significantly higher than 43 million VR users.

Implemented in various medical mobile apps, AR technology is making its advent into the healthcare industry on a large scale.

Benefits of Augmented Reality in Medicine

Medical AR is a real godsend for both doctors and patients.

BENEFITS FOR PATIENTS:

  • Safer invasive surgery. AR smart glasses can substitute monitors that display images or critical data conventionally delivered by endoscopic cameras.
  • More information on illness prevention and treatment. AR can provide facts about the way our body works thus it can get us prepared for taking the right medical decisions. Being yet unable to identify diseases or their symptoms, augmented reality medical applications can serve educational purposes for many categories of patients or future parents.
  • Streamlining some medical procedures. Helping to detect where a patient’s veins are located can make taking blood samples or injections more tolerable for them (and simplify nurses’ efforts as well).
  • Improved aftercare. Even when the patient is out of hospital, AR apps can help them stay tuned to the ways of treatment they will undergo at home.

BENEGITS FOR DOCTORS:

  • Education and training. Any educational process can be significantly facilitated by leveraging augmented reality and medical training is sure to remarkably benefit from it. The absence of risks and interactive nature make AR a perfect teaching tool.
  • Routine medical tasks. Head-mounted displays, headsets of various kinds, and, finally, simple Google Glass (if “simple” is the right word to be used in this case) leave a doctor’s hands free while showing them the complete picture of what they are dealing with.
  • Enhanced urgent help opportunities. If a person suddenly collapses in the street, the passers-by are typically dumbfounded being at a loss how to help him or her. And the help must be as prompt as possible. A special browser combined with a respective AR app can not only store all emergency numbers but also display where the nearest automated external defibrillator is located and show you the shortest way there.

In addition to these two categories of people using AR, the healthcare industry encompasses drug manufacturers as well. Any pharmaceutical company will also find this top-notch technology of great use to give a 3D image of the way a drug works inside our body. Moreover, it is a surefire recipe to win customers who will consider such videos more helpful (and interesting to boot) than reading through long and boring (and incomprehensible as often as not) drug descriptions.

Given such benefits for all parties of the healthcare industry involved it is no wonder that the medical AR market experiences a rapid boom likely to expand up to 23 percent by 2023. According to ballpark estimates of employing augmented reality in healthcare, statistics show the astounding $1.2 billion as far as its revenue opportunities in 2020 are concerned. However enormous this figure may seem, it is even likely to manifest a 3.5-fold growth by 2025 reaching the unbelievable $5.1 billion.

What are the most prominent trends in employing AR in healthcare right now?

How is Augmented Reality Used in Medicine?

There are several mainstream tendencies where medical AR makes the greatest advance.

Augmented surgery

Augmented surgery

A surgeon may be a super talented and experienced professional handling most operations like a twenty-minute cakewalk. Yet any surgery is a risky venture fraught with challenges. AR is called to minimize the risks related to such intrusions into an organism and even save lives, who knows.

First of all, bones, muscles, and blood vessels can appear before a surgeon’s eyes in a 3D image so that the doctor will determine what should be done not when the patient is cut open, but hours before. All that the doctor has to do is to put on the AR headset and spare the patients cutting their bodies. Of course, before that the corresponding MRI data and CT scans are entered into the headset but then the surgeon will have plenty of time to make up their mind as to the precise location of an incision or injection. Second of all, the doctor can have real-time access to all crucial data about the patient without any need to search for records anywhere – this is where our company has a comprehensible experience. Such data is vital in case of an emergency when any second lost may spell lots of problems for the patient.

Treatment & prevention

Treatment & prevention

Although the first three fields dominate in augmented reality health care the application of this technology isn’t limited to them. It can not only be a valuable help to people in treating maladies but can also cure some of them. For instance, anxiety disorders and phobias can be efficiently handled by producing artificial stimuli which will eventually habituate patients to the environments causing such disorders.

It is universally recognized that preventing an illness is much better than trying to treat the patient who develops it. And any prevention works much better if it is turned into a game. Realizing that, web developers designed an app that is called to encourage budding joggers in their efforts. After downloading Zombies, Run! they will find themselves chased by strange groaning creatures, which is enough for any person to speed up trying to escape from them. Here augmented reality uses in medicine and entertainment overlap turning health maintenance into fun – the domain out company excels at.

AR medical education and training

AR medical education and training

As Requestum specialists believe, the hands-on learning experience this technology can provide will revolutionize medical education in the nearest future. Simulated surgeries and disease diagnosing will allow students to encounter dozens of cases to deal with. A great way to thread their way through mistakes treating virtual patients instead of endangering real people. One of the typical augmented reality use cases in healthcare that facilitates training is projecting anatomy data on a 3D skeleton to visualize the work of various organs. Another advantage of AR technology is ensuring a systematic approach to studying. Random training with what is available in a dissection lab precludes students from getting a consistent picture. Utilizing augmented reality, they can receive an exhaustive experience related to a certain organ or disease.

Diagnosing problems

Diagnosing problems

Accurately describing symptoms was never an easy job for patients, especially elderly ones and infants. With the help of augmented reality, medical diagnosing will become much easier enabling patients to better explain their concerns. For example, EyeDecide app was developed that manifests to patients cataract or age-related macular degeneration effects so that they could single out similar symptoms.

Besides, some conventional procedures may be facilitated. For instance, 40% of intravenous injections are mishandled because a nurse can’t hit the vein with the first stick. AccuVein eliminates such problems allowing nurses to locate the veins easily.

Augmented Reality Medicine: A Glimpse into the Future

Woman with AR tools

The recent headways in software and hardware significantly reduced AR technologies’ cost which augurs their wider application in health care. Digital designers find ever new areas where they can be utilized.

For example, in 2014 Google declared daring plans for the development of a smart contact lens that will be able to gauge glucose level in tears thus becoming useful to millions of people who suffer from diabetes. And we are sure to witness a great number of other advancements that can ultimately make humans healthier and prolong their lives.

Conclusion

In the digital world of today, augmented reality is increasingly becoming an inalienable part of many branches of industry and entertainment so health care is no exception. With the enhanced opportunities it offers for diagnosis, treatment, and training, AR has all chances to develop into a powerful tool for improving the quality of life. Do you have a project idea? Don’t hesitate to contact us to get consultation and development quote from our augmented reality experts.

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