Although Augmented Reality (AR) is often associated with gaming, it actually has many applications in the healthcare industry. Indeed, by superimposing computer-generated images onto reality, AR can provide both surgeons and patients with many useful tools. Let’s take a look at them, and how they can improve the healthcare industry.
Augmented Reality Vs Virtual Reality
Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR) are terms that people often use interchangeably, but are in fact quite different. AR uses virtual objects to enhance the real world, whereas VR is an immersive experience in a simulated world that requires special hardware. This makes VR more cumbersome, whereas AR on the other hand, already exists within popular devices such as tablets and phones making it a lot more accessible.
AR in Healthcare Use Cases
This ability to “enhance” reality with superimposed images makes AR an amazing addition to healthcare. Here are some of it’s uses.
Traditionally, medical students would use a whole host of models resembling human bodies, their parts, and organs to train various skills. Nowadays, however, instead of physical cadavers or plastic models, students can see the human body in augmented reality. Moreover, AR apps can show the parts and organs in motion, so that the students see how they work.
Furthermore, as students progress, they would have to train on real patients, which can be risky due to possible errors.
Instead, with the introduction of AR, patients no longer need to worry. By overlaying animated images onto manikins, AR applications create the impression of performing surgery on a living organism. This provides a realistic experience for the students, without any risk!
AR Healthcare in the Operating Theatre
Although helping educate future doctors and surgeons is already a great use for AR in Healthcare, another one of its uses is in the operating theatre, helping surgeons treat patients with greater precision and focus, thus reducing medical errors.
Whilst operating, they can be more aware of organ location, meshes of the vein, and diagnosis reports, appearing right in front of their eyes. This means they are more focused on the patient, no longer needing to look at many different screens. Furthermore, a single AR display that integrates all imaging and patient data and allows doctors to keep their eyes on the patient has the potential to improve quality, safety and reduce cost by decreasing procedure-related complications.
Collaboration Between Physicians
AR in healthcare can also help with collaboration between physicians. This means that if the primary surgeon is miles away, he can guide a medical professional on hand to treat the patient thanks to a VIPAR (Virtual Interactive Presence and Augmented Reality) system for example. Here are the results of a test using this system:
“The VIPAR system allowed for real-time, virtual interaction between a local (resident) and remote (attending) surgeon. In both carotid and pterional dissections, major anatomic structures were visualized and identified. Virtual interaction permitted remote instruction for the local surgeon, and MRI augmentation provided spatial guidance to both surgeons. “
The bottom line is that AR remains a relatively new concept in healthcare. This does not mean that it will be unsuccessful, however. On the contrary, with constant innovation in AR and Healthcare, we should start to see much wider adoption.
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