Augmented Reality (AR) essentially enhances or overlays actual objects with digital data and imagery. Today’s advanced AR technologies offer unique healthcare applications that are valuable to the process chain and can be potentially life-saving. Here are five exciting ways that AR is impacting the industry.
One interesting AR application makes it possible to see the heat signature of veins in a patent’s arm. The vast majority of nurses say that the technology, called Accuvein, improves their ability to locate veins when inserting needles or tubes during medical procedures. As explained in Harvard Business Review, “AR more than triples the likelihood of a successful needle stick on the first try.” It can also dramatically reduce the need for escalations and calls for assistance by a whopping 45 percent.
In the medical field, one simple mistake can be potentially catastrophic, even during a practice session. But healthcare can avail itself of interactive AR for training purposes, to minimize that risk. AR-enhanced training also reduces costs. That’s why the Department of Homeland Security combines virtual reality simulation with augmented reality instruction, to prepare responders for major emergencies. AR can make a situation seem very realistic, for improved training, but with little or no danger.
Surgeons can benefit from AR to help them visualize exactly where within the human body they are going to perform their procedures. A realistic 3-D image of the patient’s internal organs, for example, can be displayed and overlaid through the use of AR. The surgical team can then act with greater confidence and precision. AR researchers at Duke, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins are also working to develop ways for surgeons to comfortably view digital images that are superimposed on a headset worn almost like a pair of Google Glasses. So surgeons may soon be able to monitor vital signs and other data, without having to look away from their area of focus.
Without imaging inventions like X-Ray, MRI, and ultrasound it would be a completely different world. Digital technologies have built upon such innovations, making every kind of imaging easier, faster, cheaper, and more accurate. But today there are medical device companies such as EchoPixel who are incorporating AR in the development of technology that upgrades the typical 2-dimensional diagnostic imagery. The new visuals are more realistically 3-dimensional, and doctors can often use them in a dynamic, interactive mode.
AR plays a big role in the gaming industry, where superimposing creative visuals over objects can add lots of realistic thrills and fun. But that kind of AR, combined with gaming, can also offer therapeutic benefits when the gaming system is intentionally engineered to help train or retrain the body. One example of this medical application of an AR and gaming hybrid is Vivid Vision. The system assists patients in overcoming eye problems such as those associated with amblyopia and strabismus. But this kind medicine goes down easy, because all the patient needs to do is play games.
These are just a few examples of how AR – which is posed to be a $60 billion business by 2020 ─ is having a significant and positive impact on healthcare.