Technology continues to shape the world around us rapidly. This is true for nearly every industry. The same can be said for healthcare. Medical breakthroughs continue to transform the way that physicians are able to treat patients around the world. While this has been true for decades, 2017 is already proving to be an incredible year for technology in medicine. Perhaps one of the most notable technological developments within healthcare is augmented reality (AR). You may be familiar with augmented reality from smartphone games like Pokémon Go, but chances are high that, like most people, you have had limited experience with AR. However, augmented reality in healthcare is rapidly becoming more and more common. So, how does AR already effect healthcare and how might it change the medical landscape of the future?
Augmented Reality in Healthcare Today
Although augmented reality in healthcare is still in its early stages, there are a few early movers who have already introduced innovative products. Existing products extend from training tools to practical applications that allow healthcare providers a greater level of precision than ever before. For example, London based company, TOUCH SURGERY, uses augmented reality to generate realistic surgical simulations allowing medical students and doctors the opportunity to practice operations in a controlled environment. In regards to practical applications, AccuVein makes it possible for doctors and nurses to clearly locate and identify veins underneath the skin. These types of products demonstrate the profound potential for augmented reality to improve the quality of care that patients receive.
Unfortunately, at this point, many of the proposed applications of augmented reality in healthcare are purely theoretical. Although there is legitimate research suggesting the viability of augmented reality in healthcare, it will likely be a while before we see augmented reality become largely prevalent. Given the need for further research and development on these products, access to augmented reality in healthcare remains limited. It has become more common within medical training and in some ways direct patient care, but widespread use of AR in healthcare may not occur for a number of years.
Augmented Reality in Healthcare Tomorrow
Looking forward, there are plenty of examples of developing technology involving augmented reality in healthcare. Some of the craziest developments include Samsung, Google, and Sony’s race to create an augmented reality contact lens. While this does not directly relate to healthcare provision, it could conceivably be used to provide greater information to both patients and their doctors. Closely related to virtual reality, CEO and Co-Founder of Floreo, Vijay Ravindran suggests that this kind of technological influence in healthcare, “can create an environment that is safe, repeatable and place someone in an immersive context that is designed for a specific treatment.” The continued growth of this industry will, no doubt, inspire incredible developments with revolutionary applications.
Growing Market of Augmented Reality in Healthcare
At this point, much of the market for AR in healthcare is populated by medical schools. Since medical students have not received their full medical education just yet, augmented reality allows them to study patients in 3D without the risks associated with real operations. These experiences are also easily repeatable meaning that they can be cost-effective for teaching institutions. However, moving forward demand for augmented reality is likely to extend into environments where doctors are actually treating patients. Products like AccueVein have already broken into this market and we can only expect more healthcare technologies to follow.
Although medical breakthroughs are always intriguing, few present such an expansive range of potential applications as augmented reality. Of course, AR had been proven to have widespread consumer appeal in gaming. While this is certainly exciting in and of itself, applying this technology to medicine may just allow physicians to save more lives and improve healthcare throughout the world. As a locum tenens, have you experienced augmented reality in healthcare?