Augmented Reality In Healthcare

“Data will not help you if you can’t see it where you need it”. Imagine a surgery happening with a virtual line showing the surgeon where to make an incision on the patient with virtual hand gestures that instruct him on how to proceed further. For new physicians preparing for surgery, this scenario for perfecting surgical skills is no longer far from reality.

The fact is, the Healthcare industry witnessed a paradigm shift towards digital in the last few decades. Starting with electronic medical records, hospital management systems, e-prescribing systems to name a few, digital technology has now become a critical enabler for patients to perform self-monitoring, facilitate interactions with doctors, sustain treatment adherence etc.

Further, the rise in disruptive technologies has predominantly changed the way on how the needs of today’s patients and heath care practitioners are addressed. For example, Big Data and predictive analytical tools make it possible to anticipate and prevent expensive failures like unwanted treatment and medication noncompliance. Similarly, characterized as being one of this decade’s most disruptive technologies, Augmented Reality (AR) technology, has been crucial in assisting surgeons in operating rooms, educating patients, guiding medical students and much more. Understanding AR and the way it is being used by some of the leading Healthcare enterprises worldwide becomes imperative now, more than ever before.

Augmented Reality is a technological innovation that has moved from the realm of science fiction, beyond advertisement and gaming, currently unveiling the next big thing in digital Healthcare space. AR applications offer huge potential in contributing to general wellness and care. Here are some well-known generic examples.

  1. A doctor who is able to view a patient’s medical history displayed over the latest medical scan, and even over the patient himself.
  2. Healthcare practitioners who are now able to project medical imagery on to patient’s bodies using head mounted displays. Projecting CT scans though the display can give doctors “X-ray vision” of patients and provide important contextual cues for diagnosing patients.
  3. Patients who are educated through simulation about their medical conditions (Cataract or AMD) using apps like Eye Decide.
  4. Patients who get reminders on taking drugs by wearing Google Glass and having an app installed on the device.
  5. A person who views work-out related data, right around his field of vision and improves his wellness and fitness regime by wearing a Smart Glass.
  6. A nurse who views a perfect highlighted image of the patient’s veins so the IV can be inserted in one painless attempt.
  7. Students who get a better understanding of the body anatomy through overlaying of digital information in the form of audio, video or 3D models onto human skeletons or in text books.
  8. Physicians who analyze suspicious moles on patients using the AR app called Doctor Mole in order to determine risk of skin cancer.

These totally impressive examples are just few of the ways AR is influencing the Healthcare landscape. Be it for Healthcare practitioners or patients, AR promises to redefine the mindsets of its every day users by putting the information needed right where and when they need it.

AR may now be in the proof of concept stage in certain Healthcare initiatives but going forward, demand for it is surely expected to increase as it finds its way in more and more Healthcare related applications that are not limited by today’s technology.