Augmented Reality in Healthcare: The Future of Medical Technology
Benefits of Augmented Reality in Healthcare
Augmented reality (AR) technology has enabled a new era of powerful tools for medicine. It’s changing how healthcare professionals work and train – and it’s not going anywhere soon. In fact, AR’s reach is projected to grow approximately 3.5 times by 2027.
Augmented reality solves significant pain points in the healthcare industry and changes how caregivers train, work, and collaborate.
Augmented reality in healthcare lets organizations enhance medical training, improving patient outcomes and revolutionizing how healthcare providers deliver care. Everything from rising costs and administrative burdens to technology integration and staff shortages can be resolved by adding AR to your healthcare toolbox.
5 Important Use Cases for AR in Healthcare
During surgeries, AR allows doctors to receive guided assistance and communicate with experts in real time, improving collaboration and further specialist reach. Healthcare professionals can also receive enhanced education and training through the interactive and immersive experiences provided by AR, which can help reduce medical errors and costs. By using immersive technology, doctors and nurses can provide more precise and efficient care, ultimately save time, resources, and money in the long run.
It’s not just doctors who benefit from adding AR to the medical arsenal. When it comes to patients, AR enables doctors to create more personalized treatment plans and empowers patients to take a more active role in both their prevention and recovery. It also presents medical conditions in a way that is easier for patients to understand. Patients can see the condition from multiple angles and explore interactive educational materials to better understand their diagnosis and how to manage it.
AR Medical Training and Education
Until recently, medical training mainly relied on traditional learning methods emphasizing lectures and memorization. Eventually, once students had a textbook feel for the basics, they would shadow tenured clinicians in the field before performing the procedures themselves.
These longstanding traditions have proven to be effective. However, AR adds another layer to supplement this training regimen, giving new tools and perspectives while expanding access and exposure to rare learning opportunities.
For starters, AR technology enables medical students to gain a better understanding of human anatomy. By creating a 3D visualization of the human body, AR allows students to see the internal structures and organs in a way that was previously impossible. Now, students can virtually place a cadaver “model” into their real-life environment to simulate and practice a cadaveric dissection.
Or – for a less complex procedure – they can overlay 3D veins onto real-world patients. Sure, that might seem trivial (obviously, you’ve never had a negative blood draw experience). But did you know that – without AR – less than 57% of nursing students receive PIVC insertion training?
Fortunately, global vein visualization leader, AccuVein, is helping to bridge this existing education gap with their near-infrared (NIR) vein visualization technology.
With a three-step approach to PIVC education and an AR-powered vein visualization device, students can get the right vein for blood draws every time, eliminating any pesky missed vein attempts.
Similarly, AR can also help students understand the steps of a surgical procedure. With visual aids like arrows, labels, and annotations overlayed onto their real-world view, students can better identify specific anatomical structures and understand how they relate to the procedure.
To round out the learning experience, AR provides hands-on learning through interactions with virtual objects. Using hand gestures, touch screens, and other input methods, students can practice surgical techniques in a safe and controlled environment before performing the procedure on a real patient. Ultimately, by creating virtual experiences that replicate actual complications, situations, or pathologies learners may face in the future, AR opens the door to a new generation of medical practitioners.
And Jump Simulation is jumping (no pun intended) at the chance to innovate. They developed the Code Cart AR app – an interactive platform to learn about the contents of the pediatric code cart and how to use it – to help clinicians quickly respond to pediatric emergencies.
With the ability to practice using a pediatric code cart in any environment at their own pace, Jump Simulation found that learners who used the app performed better in a timed skills test than those who did not.
AR Surgery Planning and Guidance
In surgery, every movement is critical. Surgeons are literally holding someone’s life in their hands. But by using AR, surgeons can plan, visualize, and navigate the anatomy of a patient in real-time, so every cut and stitch can be carefully calculated.
AR can overlay digital images of the patient’s anatomy onto the surgical site, providing surgeons with a more detailed and accurate picture of what, exactly, is happening inside the body. This can help the surgeon avoid damage to critical structures – such as blood vessels and nerves – and improve precision and accuracy during complex surgeries.
In fact, Queen Mary’s Hospital has been using AR for this exact use case. During surgery, surgeons can create a map of the patient’s anatomy and overlay it directly onto their body, helping them quickly identify important blood vessels and muscle groups to note “keep-out” zones.
With the help of a patient’s CT scans, they can navigate safely and avoid making mistakes. Ultimately, this could mean faster recovery times for patients and less time spent in the hospital, as well as fewer secondary or corrective surgeries.
AR can also be used to simulate surgical procedures beforehand, allowing surgeons to practice and prepare for the surgery. When surgeons have top-of-the-line technology to work with, they’re empowered with the most information possible. And what’s better than being prepared for anything? More preparation reduces the risk of complications during the actual surgery and improves patient outcomes.
But arguably the most revolutionary use case for AR during surgery though is for real-time intraoperative guidance from (and collaboration with) specialists during surgery. For instance, Proximie – a plug-and-play, hardware-agnostic, remote collaboration platform – allows clinicians to virtually “scrub in” and collaborate with each other from anywhere in the world.
This came in particularly handy during the start of the COVID pandemic. Using the Proximie platform, Dr. Jim Porter, an expert in robotic procedures, guided a team of London surgeons through a complex surgery – all from his living room 4,700 miles away.
AR Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy
Ask anyone who has been through a bout of physical rehab, and they’ll probably give you the same answer: Rehabilitation and physical therapy are hard.
However, AR is creating a more engaging and interactive rehabilitation experience for everyone. In augmented reality environments, patients can practice and improve their motor skills in a safe, controlled, and (dare we say) fun environment. For example, AR can be used for interactive games that require patients to perform specific movements or exercises, helping to improve their range of motion, strength, and coordination.
Jintronix, an AR-based rehabilitation system, capitalized on this use case. With the help of motion-capture technology, they create interactive exercises for patients recovering from strokes or other neurological conditions.
In fact, their technology provides more than 100 assessments, for therapy goals such as:
But it can do more than foster a fun training environment. AR can actually provide visual feedback during rehabilitation. For instance, AR markers can be placed on specific body parts, allowing patients to see themselves in real time and monitor their movements and progress. With interactive gait analysis and continuous biofeedback, patients are more motivated to continue with their rehab program.
Plus, physical therapists can use AR to monitor and track their patients’ progress remotely. Equipped with an AR headset, patients can perform exercises at home while therapists monitor and track their progress remotely, providing personalized feedback and making adjustments to the rehabilitation program as needed – no travel necessary.
When it comes to virtual reality, MyndVR is doing just that.
As the leading provider of Immersive Digital Therapeutics, they empower aging adults in senior living communities with a new genre of digital health and wellness. Part of their research involves collaborating with the Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) at Stanford University to study the impact of Virtual Reality on older adults residing in a variety of healthcare environments. In one of the largest-scale studies to date, MyndVR is diving deep to measure the effects VR has on the population.
AR Mental Health Treatment
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 20% of American adults experienced a mental health crisis. Yet fewer than half of those sought and received treatment. On top of that, there has been a jump in prescriptions for anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications without any additional treatment.
AR is looking to change that. When used as a mental health aid, it can help individuals better understand and manage their conditions. And rather than putting a bandaid on the condition with medication alone, AR can be used supplementarily for techniques like:
The University of South Australia is putting this tech to the test. They’re exploring the ability of augmented reality to deliver cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a short-term psycho-social intervention for treating conditions like anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Through task-based processes, they’re finding how CBT empowers kids to identify and cope with the symptoms of anxiety.
Telehealth is not just reserved for pandemics – it’s the future of healthcare. And AR is a key tool for providing the best telehealth experience possible.
With AR, healthcare providers can consult and provide diagnoses without patients needing to visit the clinic. Digital information can be overlayed on live video feeds of patients, so providers can virtually examine their patients and provide real-time feedback. By improving communication and facilitating remote exams, AR enhances both the patient and provider telehealth experience.
This form of care is especially beneficial for older adults and folks with disabilities, Ten Chan General Hospital found. Wearing an AR headset, doctors can access medical records or bring specialists in remotely for real-time consultations.
But AR can also be used to educate patients on their conditions and treatments. In fact, the telehealth platform Connect2MyDoctor enables specialists to easily explain anatomical structures and physiological mechanisms to patients through integrated AR. The zoom and rotate features paired with model highlights and annotations give patients a deeper understanding of medical processes.
Plus, it can remotely monitor patients with chronic conditions and follow up with post-surgery patients, tracking everything from patients’ vital signs to physical therapy progress and even medication adherence. As part of this monitoring, AR can also remotely diagnose and troubleshoot medical devices. With access to a device’s internal components, providers can remotely maintain devices and support technical issues.
Challenges of AR in Healthcare
But of course, revolutionizing the healthcare industry comes with a few hiccups. Along with its benefits, there are a few challenges to integrating AR with traditional medical technology, including:
Manage Healthcare AR Devices with ArborXR
AR’s application in healthcare is ripe with possibilities. As it continues to evolve and become more sophisticated, it can truly transform the way providers and patients alike operate. From medical education and surgery to rehabilitation and therapy, AR has the potential to improve the healthcare experience for everyone involved.
Obviously, the benefits of AR in healthcare are monumental, ranging from improved patient outcomes to more efficient and effective procedures. And despite the challenges this technology poses, partnering with the right XR MDM can make the switch painless.
Managing XR devices manually is difficult – and traditional MDMs are limiting. But ArborXR can manage all your AR devices, remotely install content, and control what users see and do so you can sleep soundly knowing everything is under control.
Want to explore the use of AR in your healthcare operations? Give us a shout or get started today.
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