These are wonderful times we live in. Every year, something new and exciting comes out in different sectors. From the Food and Beverage industry to the Automobile industry, everywhere the sentiment of innovation is in full bloom. And leading this tide of revolution is the technology sector. The leaps that we have taken in just the past two decades alone are unfathomable. From our far away relatives and friends coming closer and sharing their precious moments with us via Social Media to self-driving cars, the technology realm has expanded in all directions like mercury in a crucible. And one such leg of the industry which has grown at an astonishing rate is Augmented Reality. While the name rolls off our tongues like something out of a Sci-Fi movie but we have all felt the tremors it has sent in the technology sector. It has been in gossips for almost three decades now but it has only been in past few years that we actually noticed its existence and in this article, we will inspect its impact on the Healthcare sector. So let’s get on with it then!
What is AR?
To put it as plainly as we can, Augmented Reality is the process of putting digital images on top of a user’s surrounding. AR technology enhances the surrounding environment by overlaying digitally generated images on various surfaces around a user. So in a way, AR bridges the gap between reality and imagination and lets a user experience his mundane world, with a new perspective.
Augmented reality smartphone apps are very hot right now. Apps like Pokemon Go and Ikea are harvesting full benefits of the technology. These apps are written in special 3D languages and using the contextual data that they gather from a user’s device, they not only place a digitally created image on a surface but anchors it to the surface to enhance the effect as well. Furthermore, based on the orientation of the devices using the AR mobile app, the image changes as well. This feature is incredibly useful in apps like Ikea where a user can inspect a digitally placed piece of furniture from different angles. Industries like Healthcare, Military, Fashion, Automobile, and many others are now going for their very own in-house Augmented Reality apps to help them in production, designing and such.
Use of AR in the healthcare sector
Perhaps the use of AR technology is nowhere more justified than it is in the Healthcare industry. The Healthcare industry has always been essential and its growth may be even more so. But as much as everyone needs to have access to proper healthcare, over the years, we have found out that it’s a tough thing to achieve. And furthermore, fit happens all too often that due to some medical oversight, a life is lost. All of this begs us to ask the question- how do we make it stop? And one answer to this dilemma is AR technology. By combining the AR technology with the healthcare app development processes, we have pushed the horizons even further back. Let us better understand the role of AR from two different perspectives-
Benefits of AR for Patients
- The first benefit of AR for patients is that of safer surgeries. With the help of this technology, the risk related to minimum evasive surgeries and more detailed surgical processes can be reduced by folds. Without having to deviate their attention from the patient, the doctor will have all the data he needs right in front of his eyes. On top of that, AR will offer overlay 3D images of organs to enhance a doctor’s visibility. Furthermore, technologies such as HoloLens will carry out various diagnoses of the patient’s body like CT scan and put the data right in front of the doctor’s eyes.
- Apart from surgeries, AR will also help in educating expecting parents. It will help them learn useful facts and how to take care of a baby. Google Glass is already training soon-to-be in breastfeeding. On top of that, sophisticated AR apps are quite capable of teaching patients about any particular disease and what are the best ways of dealing with it.
- Thanks to technologies like AccuVein, processes like trying to find the vein to put in an IV needle or an injection needle becomes easy. Many times it happens that the first time a nurse tries to inject something in a patient’s vein, he fails. And this happens even more often in case of babies and the elderly. But this technology overlays the vein mesh of the patient on him and as a result, makes the whole process a lot easier and straightforward.
- AR will also help diabetic patients in managing their sugar levels, learning about diseases and finding out about their symptoms as well.
Benefits of AR for Doctors
- The most significant AR advantage for doctors is in the surgical department as well. AR will assist them by providing them all the necessary information like organ location, vein-meshes, and diagnosis reports right in front of their eyes which will help their concentration and dwindle chances of them making a mistake.
- The second most crucial role which AR will play for doctors is in their training. Using technologies like Microsoft’s HoloLens, students can learn in a more interactive way and real-life simulation surgeries or diagnosis of a patient without any real risk being involved.
- The AR technology is now also helping doctors in operating tumors in a less risky manner by assisting them to localize a tumor in critical areas.
- Using a combination of the VIPAAR and Google Lens technology, surgeons can now perform surgeries remotely. Developed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, this technology allows a two-way interactive video conferencing. A remote surgeon sees and feels everything that a local surgeon is seeing and feeling in the OR and can assist him in the surgery. This can not only change the way we do surgeries but also help in minimizing the risk involved in them.
While quite a heated debate can be organized about the advantages and disadvantages of medical technology, no one can deny that it is changing the healthcare sector and healthcare solutions, for good. And yes there is a lot of sophistication yet to come in the technology, and we are yet to find a way to fuse AR with our lives more deeply, but the initial advancements are promising and paint a splendid picture of the future.