Augmented Reality

Reasons to use augmented reality in Healthcare

What is augmented reality?

Although 2016, was a ground breaking year for the AR technology due to the overwhelming success of Pokémon Go, AR has been in existence since 1901. 

Augmented reality is a technology that blends the real world with computer-generated virtual elements. In other words, augmented reality aims to combine the physical world with the virtual world through a computer-generated virtual overlay – 2D or 3D. In augmented reality, the virtual overlay is projected in reality either through people’s smartphone camera or smart glasses with the objective to make virtual and physical world interact together. This is often done with the help of computer vision and machine learning. 

This technology – augmented reality, is widely used in various different industries apart from the gaming industry. It is no longer just limited to the gaming industry. The applications of AR technology have extensively extended to various different industries. One such industry in which AR plays a crucial role is the healthcare industry.

As more and more mainstream businesses and brands adopt AR, more biomedical and life science companies are also using augmented reality to bring new therapies to life by combining both physical and virtual worlds. Mainly due to its user friendliness and affordability, to communicate, engage and educate healthcare professionals and patients on innovations that will improve outcomes.

In the current digital era, augmented reality is gearing towards a more advanced communication platform not only as a marketing tool, but also an exciting medium to a diverse and broader spectrum. 

For instance, in healthcare AR is used not only for educating and communicating complex biomedical and life science concepts but also to further the message by immersing and engaging the audience into a deeper and closer view of the biological processes that would not be achieved by any other form of media.

Over the years, the needs and uses of augmented reality in the healthcare industry has only seen a rapid spike. This is mainly because of its innumerable possibilities to use. As AR provides a deeper and an intimate sense of user control with different viewing angles, allowing an experiential form of information discovery.

In 2020, the health care industry was expected to be among the first to realize the benefits of AR technologies on human behaviour, patient experience, and lifesaving interventions. Over the years, due to the technological advancement in the healthcare industry, usage of augmented reality has become an increasing trend in the healthcare industry. Several healthcare companies choose augmented reality because of its easy accessibility, efficiency, and mainly due to its ability to integrate digital information with user`s environment in real time.   Augmented reality is widely used in various medical fields such as: Dentistry, Medical imaging, Training nurses, Paediatric MRI evaluation and many more.

This is largely because augmented reality provides an enriched interactive experience on how new drugs and medical devices interact with the body. Using this disruptive technology in healthcare enables healthcare professionals and companies to provide a better way to engage with other healthcare professionals (HCPs) and patients. As AR enables HCPs to illustrate and explain different diseases, prevention and treatment method, functionality of a medical device or mechanism of action of a drug on molecular level in a detailed manner to patients and other HCPs. 

In other words, in healthcare, AR technology is widely used for patient doctor education, surgical visualization, and diseases simulation to enhance patient treatments and outcomes; as AR can significantly enhance customer engagement, improve education on complex topics, and create differentiation with more powerful branding. 

In this blog, we will be looking predominantly at some of the significant uses and applications of augmented reality in the healthcare industry.

To emphasize on some of its applications:

ACCUVEIN

AccuVein is a global leader in vein visualization. The objective of AccuVein is to help healthcare professionals to efficiently identify or see the peripheral veins on patients’ skin prior to drawing blood, IV infusion, blood donation and others. As a result, AccuVein launched their AccuVein AV400, a vein illumination system. This handheld scanner or medical device was created using augmented reality technology. By projecting the handheld scanner over the skin AccuVein AV400 help`s healthcare professionals to see the exact number of veins with regards to its location and type on patients’ skin surface.  On doing so, doctors and nurses are able to hit the mark the first time efficiently and accurately while drawing blood or starting an IV infusion. This medical device also enables doctors and nurses to verify vein patency and avoid valves, amongst its several other benefits.

Source (Accuvein)

HOLOANATOMY

Microsoft first launched its latest technology HoloLens in 2016. It is a holographic, augmented reality headset. A headset that uses multiple in-built sensors, advanced optics and holographic processing to meld seamlessly with its environment. It was also built for increased interactivity purposes to enable users to freely interact with virtual models, environments and holograms.  In other words, it is used to display complex information, interact with the environment or simulate a virtual world.

After years of extensive study and tests, Microsoft in collaboration with Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic launched a HoloLens app called HoloAnatomy in 2019. The objective of HoloAnatomy was to revolutionize the way human anatomy was taught. In other words, to help visualise the human anatomy in a simple-and-spectacular way.

The HoloLens Headset from Microsoft helps app users to see everything from muscles to the smallest veins on a dynamic holographic mode; as it aims to transform medical education using AR tech.

Study reports by Case Western Reserve University have shown that using the HoloLens Headset from Microsoft to understand and learn human anatomy has proven to be an efficient and effective learning tool; allowing students to learn twice as fast than traditional dissections. Additionally, studies have also proven that use of augmented reality HoloLens helps in quicker retention of information.

Source (https://case.edu/holoanatomy/

Furthermore, according to a study by Medical Science Educator, in January 2020, the HoloAnatomy was found to be an effective and efficient way to teach and educate future healthcare professionals as students using the HoloAnatomy required 40% less classroom time to cover the required learning than those doing dissection

Source (https://case.edu/holoanatomy/about)

AED4EU App

AED4EU App was first created by Lucien Engelen in The Netherlands. The objective of this app was to help individuals add different locations were Automated External Defibrillator (AED) are located. By adding, it helps other individuals with the app to access the database through a reality browser called the Layar browser. By using the app through the reality browser, users can project the exact location of the nearest AEDs on their respective phone screens in a minute. Consequently, resulting in helping those in need.

Source (https://www.aed4.eu/blog/)

Benefits of augmented reality in the healthcare industry

Education & training 

  • Healthcare professionals use AR technology to educate and train their new doctors, surgeons and nurses. Certain medical institutions also use AR technology to educate their medical students because of its ability to help students learn the information quickly The primary reason why healthcare professionals use AR for education and training is, for instance, because of its ability to reconstruct 3D visuals of organs from various different angles for greater precision in stitches. Thus, due to its ability to reconstruct tumours in 3D; AR enables surgeons to view X-rays in real time without radiation exposure. 

Quick comprehension & retention 

  • AR technology through its detailed and engaging visuals helps increase learning, retention and understanding for doctors and patients by presenting complex ideas in interactive formats. For instance, AR allows 3D heart modelling application to demonstrate the movement of medicine through the organ and its effects as part of a new treatment. On doing so, healthcare professionals and patients are better able to understand the complex biomedical concepts by seeing how it works in the body with AR.  Several studies have shown and proven that using visuals to illustrate and explain a complex message of life science and biomedicine results in enhanced perception and retention of the intended message than a long nonvisual message.

Future of augmented reality in healthcare

By 2025, it is expected that consumers will be able to thoroughly analyse their health and well-being in real time through AR-based apps, giving them a snapshot of how time and unhealthy lifestyles would affect their bodies. 

To further emphasize on it, here are some key statistical facts predicted:

  • The current market value of AR stands at $3.5 billion and it is expected to be worth over $18 billion in 2023
  • As of 2018, the market size for AR was $1.64 billion but it is expected to grow at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 73.8% by 2025
  • 5G mobile network technology represents an opportunity to accelerate the adoption of AR
  • According to Forrester, by 2021, AR will be commonplace, while VR remains niche.
  • According to Zion Market Research, the Global Healthcare AR/VR market will reach USD 5,115 Million By 2025. The estimate will be at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of around 29.2% by 2025.
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