September 2021

Once upon a time, Augmented reality was just a work of fiction. But who would have thought  it will become one of the most popular and latest innovations in the tech world with various leading and practical applications across industries. Some of the most notable industries yielding positive results with the use of AR include (and are not limited to) retail, eCommerce, manufacturing, construction, real estate, and healthcare. Speaking of healthcare and medicine, Augmented Reality in the healthcare industry has proven to be one of the budding digital health technologies there is.

The AR technology has been in the works since the 1960s when computer scientist Ivan Sutherland at Harvard created an AR head-mounted display system. The rest has followed ever since. Now the experts state that the revenue for augmented reality will jump to an estimated $340.16 by 2028. 

As AR is immensely growing and becoming more affordable, many healthcare institutions are considering developing the applications of AR to communicate, train, and engage healthcare professionals and patients to improve outcomes.


Defining Augmented Reality in the Healthcare Industry

Unlike VR, augmented reality puts together virtual world elements on top of the real world. One of the most prominent examples of AR is PokemonGo. The game was launched back in 2016 and conquered the world right after stepping into the market. Gamers actually left their full-time earning jobs to become pokemon hunters.

Another common example is Snapchat/Instagram’s most popular cat and dog filters. All you have to do is aim your camera at yourself to activate the AR experience – which allows you to see a computer-generated version of the cat on top of your picture- selfie or otherwise. 

Apart from gaming and leisure, the same tech has various important use-cases in the healthcare industry as well. AR is bringing life-changing practices for both patients and doctors. Healthcare practitioners (HCPs) are making use of AR especially for medical training and imaging, dentistry, and nurse training, among other things.


Some Important Facts & Figures

In 2018, the global augmented reality in the healthcare industry was estimated at $321.1 million and now is expected to reach a total revenue of $1,565.1 (CAGR of 21.9%) by 2026.

If we look at the breakdown, we can see that the North American region is most likely to dominate the global AR in the healthcare market during the above-mentioned projected period. As it was valued at $ 141.3 in 2018 and is anticipated to increase dramatically to $664.9 million by 2026.


How is Virtual Reality Changing the Medical Field – Possible Use-Cases

AR for Education & Surgeries

Healthcare institutions and workers were quick to realize the benefits and usefulness of AR technologies specifically for education. Speaking of, healthcare training is one of the most important examples of AR. Sure there is no surprise that healthcare workers are expected to learn everything they can about patient care, the anatomy of the human body, and its functions. 

AR gives them the ability to visualize and interact with computer-generated simulations of a three-dimensional environment or representations of bodies for surgical procedures. Medical students or surgeons can use AR techniques to visualize the area they want to perform surgery on for better accuracy. Platforms like HoloHuman help medical students to explore different body functions, systems, and/or regions via full-size, interactive holograms. Hololens headset is another great example.

Surgeons and doctors in London hospitals have already started using Microsoft’s HoloLens AR glasses for reconstructive surgery of patients with severe injuries.


AR for Vein Visualization

Another practical application of AR in use today is for vaccinations, blood samples, and various injections. Since veins are difficult to find, AR can facilitate the process through vein visualization hence making the experience rather comfortable for patients – who are hesitant or are terrified of needles sticking into their skin.

AccuVein is one such example. The software makes it easier for doctors or healthcare staff to find the vein first before poking in the needle. Similarly, there are more fascinating applications of AR that are radically changing the healthcare industry and quality of life along with it.


AR for Virtual Collaboration

If the head surgeon is away, AR-based virtual collaboration applications can always come in handy. The second in command can follow the procedural instructions through a virtual environment for collaborative surgeries. It’s especially advantageous for surgeons not residing in the same geographical area as the patient undergoing surgery.

Moreover, AR can seamlessly enable patients to access and discuss a further diagnosis with doctors via video-based appointments. Proximie is a platform that uses the applications of both AR and AI to allow surgeons to perform procedures remotely with a live video stream.

AR for New Mothers

Traditionally, family members help and support young new mothers through the surprisingly challenging breastfeeding process. However, the world has drastically changed and became far more global than ever before. Back in 2014, Small world – a tech company developed breastfeeding tutorials, tips, and techniques in collaboration with the Australian Breastfeeding association through Google’s most advanced wearable tech: Google glass.

It’s a voice- and motion-controlled Android device – just like a pair of eyeglasses that displays information that users can see in real-time in their field of vision. The AR-powered glasses show breastfeeding mothers everything they need to know such as prompts, directions et al. 


AR for Symptom Identification

Patients struggle to describe their symptoms accurately to doctors more often than not. Most of the time, patients seem to exaggerate the medical situation or, on the contrary, fail to understand the seriousness of it.

Through apps like EyeDecide, it’s basically a patient’s education app through which doctors can visualize a patient’s symptoms and the impact of its conditions through a camera display. For example, if patients think or are suffering from Glaucoma, the app can demonstrate its potential impact and help patients understand the symptoms and the actual medical state they are in. 


The Future of AR in Healthcare

Keeping all possible applications of AR in mind, we can easily say that the future of augmented reality in the healthcare industry seems bright. The ability to project virtual elements or information over real-life structures for enhancing or altering the real environment is beyond comparison.

Applications of AR for understanding anatomical functions and structures including physiological mechanisms have proven to be quite beneficial for healthcare practitioners. 

According to a press release by business wire, Dr. Frank Phillips who is both the Professor and the Director of the Division of Spine Surgery at Rush University Medical Center successfully completed his first AR-based minimally invasive spine surgery. This is evident to the fact that healthcare providers are unreservedly embracing the possibilities of AR technology.

Therefore, if you are in the healthcare industry, aspire to work as a forward-thinking startup founder/ entrepreneur, you need to step up your game in the field of AR because the opportunities are endless. 


Benefits of Augmented Reality in the Healthcare Industry – Key Takeaways

    • AR-enabled simulations can facilitate learning for medical students, doctors, and surgeons so that they can treat their patients better
    • It allows HCPs to perform complex surgeries/operations without the risk of making mistakes
    • AR-enabled maps make it easier for people to find healthcare facilities
    • This technology offers a more personalized approach for patients by enabling doctors to better explain how certain operations will be performed or which steps to take for a speedy recovery
    • Increases patient satisfaction and engagement rates
    • Instantly save lives with AR-powered apps for finding defibrillators nearby



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Fahad Ali, Author

Fahad is PM at ARFASOFTECH but has a knack for writing. He enjoys writing about the latest technologies and evolving trends. Most of his writings revolve around trending technologies and their integration into operations.

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