How the Healthcare Industry is Using AR

Sarah Thuet Picture

by Sarah Thuet | Last Updated: May 1, 2018

Deloitte recently released their 2018 Global healthcare outlook, and the star of this year’s show? Smart healthcare. Change is definitely coming, and it’s coming for the better–with new integrated technology helping hospitals and healthcare providers to streamline processes, improve patient care, and increase productivity. Among one of the most promising smart technologies in the healthcare industry? Augmented Reality! Augmented reality (AR) technology combines the real-life environment that is right in front of us with an overlaid digital augmentation of an object, scene, etc. This technology is already pretty mainstream, with use cases popping up in our daily lives more than you may even realize (Think: the lines that are superimposed on football fields to show viewers where the first down is, enhanced navigation systems that are able to place a route over the live view of a road, and that little game you may remember from a few years back...Pokemon Go). Although those use cases are on the more lighthearted side, this technology has the opportunity to make major changes and improvements in healthcare. The healthcare industry is just beginning to scratch the surface on opportunities here, so let’s check out a few impactful use cases for AR. Improving Blood Draw Accuracy If you’ve ever had your blood drawn, you can probably attest to the discomfort experienced when they can’t find the right vein. Drawing blood is not necessarily as simple of a process as it seems. To help with this issue, AR technology is being developed to help medical professionals see their patient’s veins before “sticking” them at all. By creating a virtual map of the veins in their arm, medical professionals are able to examine the patient before making a stick–an innovation that will hopefully decrease the 60 percent of children and 40 percent of adults that currently require multiple attempts to access a vein. Encouraging Movement During Healing Process Physical activity is crucial to both the improving and maintaining of patients’ levels of health, which isn’t always as simple as getting up and walking. By developing AR applications and games, patients (especially children) can work to control their movements and refine gross motor skills. Take the app SpellBound as an example. By activating AR technology on top of cards and books, engaging stories are brought to life. This not only gets kids up and moving, but also keeps them calm and engaged during treatments to ease their healing process. Assisting in the Operating Room Efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to surgery, and AR presents the opportunity to create a seamless and efficient procedure. Imagine if the surgeon could essentially “see through” a patient using the technology in a headset. This is accomplished by using AR technology to display the internal anatomy as an overlay, allowing the surgeon to essentially have x-ray vision. As a result, surgeons would know the internal makeup of the patient without a single incision. Explaining a Diagnosis Think back to a time when you or a person you know received a medical diagnosis. What’s the first thing you did? I immediately Google it–which only leads you down a rabbit hole of terrifying possibilities. By using AR technology to simulate what exactly this diagnosis looks like, a doctor has the opportunity to really explain to a patient what all of the medical jargon means and what their condition really entails, eliminating the fear and uncertainty that usually comes with a diagnosis. The EyeDecide app is already accomplishing this by using the native smartphone camera capabilities to show an actual simulation of the condition a patient is suffering from. More applications like this for other impacted body parts have the opportunity to remove diagnostic confusion and unnecessary fear. The world of AR has the opportunity to completely transform the healthcare industry. With Google’s ARCore and Apple’s ARKit allowing for better access to AR technology, developers and medical professionals can combine forces to create revolutionary experiences–all of which can be hosted on the device that patients already have...their smartphones! Needless to say, healthcare is set to cannonball into the world of AR, and as these experiences become more mainstream, it’s clear that patients are ready to embrace AR as a part of their healthcare experiences.

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