How healthcare is benefiting from augmented reality

How healthcare is benefiting from augmented reality

  • industry Highlights
  • 5 years ago

Probably from sci-fi movies, books or based on the recent famous acquisition of Oculus VR by Facebook you may have sense or associate virtual reality exclusively with video games or another ‘still-not-available’ pieces of technology.

Don’t get us wrong – the current devices that create immersive, three-dimensional virtual entertainment environments has huge potential. But that is not the only field where we can embrace untraditional experiences. Augmented reality is still a relatively new and unknown realm but that kind of hardware and software surely will become a part of our everyday life technology in the near future. AR is already changing warehouse and factory workflows or how traditional fields like medicine is working. Apart from saving patients’ lives, existing processes in healthcare organizations are proving that they could become more efficient and precise with augmented reality.

There are different applications of AR technology in the health sector – right from providing assistance during surgeries to improving medical training. Apart from saving patients’ lives, existing processes and studies in healthcare organizations are proving how various application of AR is improving severe conditions like autism spectrum disorders, post-traumatic stress or treatment of memory failure and diseases like dementia.

AR in the operation room and nearly outside

Everyone who is studying medicine has to learn anatomy. Nowadays we have so different ways to do it — textbooks, charts, flash cards, even bone boxes (box of bones with references for each peace to figure out what it is and waits characteristics). New simulators and applications are slowly penetrating teaching classes and operation rooms not only improving depth perception and user understanding and interaction within augmented environments, but also in introducing such visualization techniques.

Last year Mr Shafi Ahmed, surgeon at The Royal London Hospital removed a tumor from the liver and bowel of a patient in the world’s first operation streamed online using a pair of Google Glasses. He wore the glasses which allowed his view to be broadcast live roughly for 14,000 students in 32 countries as they were able to interact and put their questions live directly to him as he performed the operation.

But that technology advancement doesn’t resolve many diagnostic imaging issues. In the beginning of August 2015 Prof. Nassir Navab, Chair of Computer Aided Medical Procedures & Augmented Reality at TU Munich in Germany presented data proving that advances in therapeutic imaging have not been comparable to the ones in diagnostic imaging yet. Nowadays in most ORs 3D imaging data is currently displayed inappropriately:

  • on static 2D screens
  • one for each imaging and device
  • far away from operation situation (over 5 m)

Thus AR not only has to provide flexibility and reliability but combined with additional mobile equipment should ensure speed, relevance and reproducibility.

Tablets and other mobile devices could be extremely helpful in such situations and will not be beneficial for doctors but patients as well. With AR apps, patients can be educated about certain medical conditions that they are suffering from.

Here is our short list of things how AR could help filling the gap in healthcare:

  • Assist complex surgeries - with the help of AR apps, complex surgeries could become easier for the doctor by providing in real time the required information to the surgeons, which would otherwise be difficult to get. The treatment process will be a smooth one with AR and it will help saving patients’ lives.
  • Advanced Medical Imaging – with the help of head-mounted displays, wearables and other mobile devices medical imagery can be projected on the patient’s body. Doctors can get an ‘X-ray vision’ of patients by projecting CT scans through the display.
  • Application in Dentistry – just like in traditional medicine AR could help dentists to accurately perform dental surgery with information right in front of them making procedures safer (for example providing status of any structures that are hidden behind any bone tissue).
  • Fitness Management – we already can track record how wellness and fitness regime can be improved significantly with mobile applications. Add AR to the picture and we surely will improve data right away.
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