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Augmented Reality in Healthcare: Top Applications, Benefits & Future

General | 9 min read • 30 September 2019
Augmented Reality in Healthcare: Top Applications, Benefits & Future

You may have heard about augmented reality in healthcare. But what exactly is this emerging tech all about, and how does it apply to this particular industry? We'll begin by explaining what AR is, and then we'll detail how augmented reality for healthcare might end up being the most significant advancement to come along in decades.

 

How Does Augmented Reality Work?

Augmented reality apps deploy virtual images or virtual interfaces and lay them over real-world scenes or scenarios. This overlay is executed in real-time with the help of input received from a camera or another input device, such as smart glasses. Therefore, AR definition refers to virtual objects that have been brought into your environment through the help of technology.

In AR-based mobile apps, developers can create this kind of 3D experience due to ARkit development. This development toolkit combines device motion tracking, scenes capturing with the phone camera, advanced scene processing, and displaying of 2D and 3D objects as AR environment.

 

Augmented Reality in Healthcare: not Myth but Reality

There is a common opinion that AR is only for gaming, like the Pokémon Go game that so many people were playing just a couple of years ago. However, it is being used more and more frequently in all sorts of other niches.

Some of those who have gotten in on AR include the automotive industry, retail, real estate, and education. Augmented reality healthcare applications, though, could become more popular than any of them as this technology becomes more mainstream in the years to come due to its life-changing value for patients and doctors both.

And it’s not just buzz words about AR and VR applications in the medical industry. From the chart below it’s easy to compare the worldwide AR investments by industries in 2016 2018 to figure out the substantial tendency of this technology growth for healthcare, real estate, automotive and marketing industries. In contrast, there is a substantial decrease in using AR for gaming, media and education industries.

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Moreover, under the recent report, the global healthcare augmented & virtual reality market was valued at approximately 950 million U.S. dollars in 2018. That's staggering, but what is even more impressive is that it is expected to generate around 7.05 Billion U.S. dollars by 2026, at a CAGR of around 28.3%, between 2019 and 2025.

 

How can Augmented Reality Be Used in Healthcare

There is a reason to believe that augmented reality Android apps or an AR application for an iPhone, for instance, could become standard as more individuals come to understand how useful and convenient this tech really is. Hence, AR integration in mobile application has become one of the common features for a lot of mhealth app, especially educational or telemedicine one. Furthermore, what's incredible, though, is that the concept of using AR in medicine is not a brand new.

Indeed, the first virtual system in medicine was introduced by Robert Mann way back in 1965 for identifying the best procedure for combatting an orthopedic disease. If we forge ahead into the late 1980s, the head-mounted display, or HMD, a wearable device, made its first appearance. It was introduced for VR visualizations in medicine.

Another one of the first examples of this tech was Google Glass, the first AR platform to make it to the mainstream. While it received mixed reviews, it seemed clear that this was far from the last time that we would see this sort of tech when Glass Enterprise Edition 2.0 was officially presented. Despite its wide range of use cases for different industries, Google glass producers mentioned healthcare primarily. Just watch a short video on what revolutionary product it was:

 

7 Powerful AR Use Cases In Healthcare

But AR glasses isn’t only one way of AR applications and in healthcare specifically. Get intrigued?

Most of the public is unaware that today, AR is being used by physicians and surgeons during interventional procedures. Two examples are Computerized Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) visualization paths.

Also, it is being used more for medical education, too, as the possibilities are as limitless as they are exciting. Thus, AR-based healthcare software development is more than mainstream but technology that can change the way and quality of medical treatment we’ve received before and our quality of life in the end. So, let’s discover the most real-life uses cases of AR in medicine in our list:

1. Augmented Reality In Surgery

When you think of it, it should come as little surprise that augmented reality should be helpful in areas such as complex, delicate surgery. In the immediate future, AR will assist doctors and specialists by providing them all the necessary information when they are trying to save patients' lives.

As they operate, they will be aware of organ location, vein-meshes, and diagnosis reports that appear right in front of their eyes. Imagine the AR experience that this can create between a surgeon and their support team. That you can better imagine it watch how Brazilian surgeons implemented AR virtual interfaces that assist them in spinal surgery.

This revolutionary tech makes surgery safer. The risks related to not only minimally-invasive operations but also more detailed surgical processes can be reduced dramatically. Surgeries where once there was a high mortality rate will become safer. Patients won't have to be as scary as they might once have been. Health problems that were once almost certain to be a death sentence may not be anymore.

2. Virtual Collaboration Between Doctors With AR Experience

AR will also be used to assist doctors with collaborative surgeries or to have effective meeting on any medical issue with augmented reality video conferencing even between the specialists located far away from the clinic

Taking as an example a surgery: the primary surgeon may be thousands of miles away, but a specialist who is on hand and in possession of AR tools can follow the instructions of a noted expert. Complex surgeries may no longer require either the patient or the surgeon to travel. The life-saving opportunities are unlike anything many in the medical community ever envisioned.

3. AR Medical Surgery Training

Related to this is AR medical training that will be beneficial for students who are training to be surgeons. New AR apps will be able to deliver a 3D experience for trainees. This means that money can be saved in the areas of the model or mannequin creation. Instead, an intricate 3D model can appear right before their eyes, and they can interact with it in much the same way that they would a physical version. Their professors can follow what they are doing at the same time and correct them if they make a mistake.

A cutting-edge example of AR mhealth technology is the app like Touch Surgery. It’s a surgical simulator training platform that allows medical students and specialists to prepare for surgery, learn new procedures, and test their knowledge – all on mobiles.

4. Assisting Doctor Medical Practice With AR Applications

Things like surgery or education are far from the only ways that AR is going to be implemented when it comes to the medical profession, though. Augmented Reality will also be able to assist doctors who are doing everyday consultations with patients.

Both doctor and patient will soon be able to look at 3D visualizations of internal organs. Even now for that purpose, you can use apps such as AccuVein.

This same technology can help to observe things like a brain tumor so that a patient will understand precisely where it is located when a doctor gives them a diagnosis.

Doctors and patients will be able to look at visualizations of electronic medical records (EMR) on a device that most people have, like an Android or iOS-based phone. AR glasses are also likely to come into play. They will allow doctors to see health records at the same time that they are examining or speaking with a patient. They won't have to consult a computer to see a patient's past complaints or maladies.

5. Better Doctor-patient Communication With Augmented Reality And Telemedicine

Telemedicine solutions as HIPAA Video application that our team has developed make doctor-patient consultations much accessible. The next level of telehealth development is using AR for conducting remote video conferencing with the doctor. Such AR telehealth apps and software are going to make communication between doctors and patients to new levels of convenience combining, for example, interactive voice recording, speech recognition and capabilities to locate pain and better diagnose.

And it’s quite convenient for patients. From one side, for example, if there is a specialist in a foreign country who is an expert on a rare disease, for instance, then they can have a consultation with a patient without that person having to travel all of those miles by plane.

The interactive telehealth application with virtual AR experiences allows showing and better locate the source of pain. It can also show patients with chronic pain how to do exercises as needed, in real-time. This could erase the need for some stents in physical therapy if that is not convenient for the individual who is in distress.

6. AR Apps And Devices For Health Treatment

Devices and AR apps will soon be utilized for all sorts of patient treatment possibilities. Augmented reality applications for pain management will be easier through the use of Microsoft's Kinect camera. This is a motion-sensing input device that was initially developed to be used with gaming.

However, the medical field sees potential in it too. AR applications may be useful in such areas as neuropathic pain, rehabilitation of various kinds, and also augmented reality in mental health treatment.

Let’s take the physical and sports rehabilitation with AR-based apps and devices that can help patients to engage them in exercises with its 3D visualizations and even track health records during training and overall progress. From another side, augmented reality applications for rehabilitation can also help physicians to better observe patients movement during training and provide better treatment.

7. AR Applications For Medical Education For Students And Patients

In the past, patients might not necessarily have been able to understand everything that a doctor was telling them. Now, through the usage of AR, a doctor can show a patient exactly what they mean through access to things like body mapping.

Medical students will be able to use this technology, as well. They can observe the intricate internal systems of cadavers as they are studying the human body during medical school. It is truly the future of augmented reality in healthcare training.

Another one example of using AR-based apps for medical education is applications that with the help of AR glass can project human anatomy or some educational information or visual 3D structures of organs, etc. What is more important that users can interact with 3D models to improve their medical practice.

 

What Are AR Benefits For The Healthcare Industry

The desired results of using augmented reality for healthcare is, of course, increasing medical services quality through such ways as assisting doctors with advanced tech devices, allowing them to better study human anatomy, expanding global collaboration opportunities between doctors, improving students' education and medical training. And that’s not all the benefits of AR for healthcare. But the main one is this new technology improves the quality of our life and opens cutting-edge technologies and opportunities for future medicine.

One more advantage of AR for healthcare providers is increasing customer satisfaction and engagement rates of using hospital applications. For example, interactive augmented reality experience in the apps for physical or mental rehabilitation engages users in training much better. Moreover, along with medicine AR experience is considered as one of the most captivating UX features for ecommerce apps too.

This technology is rapidly changing the way we live and our medicine system and growing incrementally. Hence, the answer to the question of "what is an augmented reality in healthcare" might be one thing today, but it will probably be something completely different in five or ten years.

It stands to reason that in half a century or even less, AR in the medical field will be capable of things of which we are only now beginning to conceive. The future of augmented reality in healthcare is bright.

 

Future Of AR Technology In The Medicine

Because of such revolutionary opportunities, now Augmented Reality development is something on which many different companies are focusing, and it's obvious why that is. Apart from the ease that it will provide for patients, the profitability for many different businesses is self-evident.

Think about what AR healthcare applications can mean for drug and pharmaceutical companies, providers of different sorts of medical products, and doctors. They will be able to allocate resources elsewhere that once would have gone into things that an app can now handle. That will dramatically increase their bottom line and make their shareholders happy in the case of publicly-traded companies.

So, it’s the right time to outrank your competitors and deliver better treatment for your patients integrating AR in your healthcare solution. Technologies are the future of healthcare and you need to adapt to these changes right now.

Having technical expertise in AR/VR development and different complexity experience in healthcare development we help you with the realization of your idea. So, let’s put together your company on the map and attract new clients and investors. And you will be able to swiftly see the benefits of augmented reality in healthcare.

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