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Augmented Reality in Healthcare: Perspectives and Real Case Studies

Industries & Technologies
AR in Healthcare and Medicine

Primarily, the AR and VR abbreviations are commonly associated with the gaming industry. Actually, the utilization capacity of these technologies is much wider, and that is clearly confirmed by augmented reality modern utilization cases in healthcare.

Be it a training routine for future doctors, creating a virtual environment for human body studies, or the practice field that allows surgery to be performed with greater efficiency and minimal risk for the patient in terms of benefits and practical applications, healthcare is one of the most important sectors for augmented reality technology.

In this article, we will cover this subject in more detail.

Interactive Specialist Training

AR technologies application reduces training costs and accelerates the training of both physicians and their patients (when necessary). Experts expect this market to grow by an average of 50% per year by 2026.

Training for stuff

For instance, AR changes the way we learn anatomy and enhances our human body understanding, helping us prepare the next generation of doctors. Interactive human body structure studies are accompanied by a huge amount of information and plenty of tips. A person can interact with specific organs and parts of the human body using their own hands. Moreover, one can get help information at any time.

Combining the study of theory and practical skills acquisition, doctors and students can receive more efficient training than when studying theory and gaining practical skills separately.

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Augmented Reality in Surgery

AR Technology solutions in surgery

A hands-on experience example: a surgeon uses a Microsoft HoloLens helmet to see the patient’s broken bone “through their skin.” In a simplified form, the algorithm looks like this: a person with, for instance, a broken leg is sent to undergo a computed tomography scan, and then the data obtained turns into a three-dimensional model adopted for HoloLens. A surgeon can handle it with their hands and avoid touching something on the broken leg.

Augmented Reality as a Psychotherapy Tool

Even though the wording seems rather strange, augmented reality glasses can actually alleviate the patients’ painful condition. A virtual “healthy” image, which is both visible in glasses and projected onto special monitors, is superimposed on the damaged parts of the body or limbs. The procedure proved useful during the treatment of patients with phantom pains.

Visual images help patients take their minds off the sense of discomfort, increase the pain threshold, or do away with any pain altogether. The last example relates to patients who have lost limbs. Using glasses, they see themselves healthy — the software completes the lost limb, and the controllers allow them to simulate its movements. This way, many patients manage to “virtually” change arm or leg position, after which they will permanently free themselves from the pain.

Swedish scientists at Chalmers University of Technology invented this particular technique.

Medication Purchase

To get information on medications quickly is a simple and commonly understandable way to use medical AR in everyday life. All the patient has to do is to point their smartphone at the desired medication product to get a brief and most necessary data on it.

In a more complex scenario, the patient can see a three-dimensional model of the product and a visualization of how the active substance affects the human body.

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Other Cases

In 2018, Google presented a microscope showing the pathologist a piece of tissue where metastases are predicted. Siemens offers an AR system to show ultrasound images during laparoscopic surgery, allowing surgeons to minimize tissue loss. AccuVein is a non-contact vein highlighting system that allows reducing by 3.5 times the statistically high probability of the first miss while making an injection into a vein. All these AR applications improve the diagnostic assessment, as well as patients’ and doctors’ quality of life.

Let Us Summarize

The purpose of any invention or technology is to simplify our lives. Even though VR/AR technologies are just taking their first steps in the healthcare industry, it is clear even today that augmented reality can reshape the medical industry as we know it.

The device and software availability rate and variety are growing, so we can safely say that augmented reality technologies will be more actively used in doctors’ training and work, providing benefits to both healthcare professionals and their patients.

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April 01, 2020

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