Although apps like Pokémon Go! and Snapchat brought augmented reality technology to mainstream consumers, the potential applications of AR and VR go far beyond mobile web app development and gaming. In the realm of healthcare, AR and VR technologies are making possible key innovations that can dramatically improve treatment for patients — and more and more healthcare systems are willing to test them out.
Here are a few applications of AR and VR in healthcare that have big potential.
Nearly half of IV injections miss the vein on the first try. AccuVein is a handheld device that aims to improve accuracy by scanning a patient’s vein network and illuminating it. Studies of the device have shown an improvement in the first stick success rate by 3.5 times.
3D Medical Imaging
Healthcare providers are constantly evaluating 2D images to diagnose illnesses, assess the effectiveness of treatments, and better understand a patient’s overall condition. EchoPixel generates 3D, interactive visualizations of that data and allows physicians to interact with them in a more realistic, contextualized way.
Augmented and virtual reality have huge potential in the field of education, particularly at the intersection of education and healthcare. Medical Realities uses VR to help med students practice surgery. The company's goal is to train a generation of surgeons to have vastly superior skills than those of the generation that came before. The key is to give them more practical experience training on a wider variety of procedures by allowing them to practice virtually.
On the patient side of things, Medical Realities can also be used to help patients learn more about their upcoming procedures, with the intention of reducing stress and anxiety.
AR Needle Guidance
InnerOptic's Magic Loupe uses electromagnetic and ultrasound technology combined with AR glasses to help practitioners guide needles towards their intended location within the body. The tool aims to improve accuracy by restoring the healthcare professional's hand-eye coordination during procedures that are currently done using primarily ultrasound.
VR Gaming as Treatment
Although gaming is not the only industry that can benefit from AR, games can certainly play a role in medical applications. Vivid Vision is a virtual reality gaming system that trains and improves eye conditions like amblyopia and strabismus — all while the patient plays.
Medical technology is constantly developing, and, thanks to augmented reality and virtual reality, healthcare professionals may soon be able to perform once-difficult tasks with greater ease, diagnose conditions with improved accuracy, and develop treatment plans with higher levels of confidence than ever before.
As AR and VR continue to take off, we'll truly see the impact of these technologies on healthcare and, most importantly, on patient outcomes.