Augmented reality (AR) is created by superimposing digital elements over a live image or video. 

The term augmented refers to enhancement and thus augmented reality is a way of creating a mixed or extended reality (XR). At the cutting edge of medical innovation, researchers believe extended reality software and hardware solutions are healthcare’s next great frontier. 

There are AR, XR, and virtual reality (VR) solutions being developed in every area of medical practice from laboratories to operating theaters, and emergency care centers to remote patient monitoring tools. 

Leading medical researchers believe augmented reality software and hardware integrations will transform healthcare delivering the next great evolution of the modern healthcare industry. 

Introduction to Augmented Reality 

The global extended reality healthcare market which reached a value of $2.7 billion in 2022 is expected to be worth more than $9.7 billion within the next 5 years. Market growth is being driven by advances in robotics, data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and remote sensing technologies. 

The emerging metaverse of healthcare is being created as real-world and computer-generated content combines in real-time to deliver a mixed or extended reality environment. Augmented reality in healthcare promises the opportunity for medical professionals to more precisely understand what is happening in the body in real time. 

What is AR? 

Augmented reality transforms an image or video by projecting digital content on top of the footage. Mixed reality (MR) is another term used to describe augmented reality. AR and MR may be used interchangeably. 

What Is VR?

Virtual reality uses computer-generated, enhanced, and modified images and video to create a simulated environment. 

What is XR? 

Extended reality is a blanket term used to describe AR/MR, and VR/MR applications. XR may be used interchangeably with AR, VR/MR. 

What’s the Difference Between AR/MR and VR? 

AR/MR is based in the real-world environment while VR is a totally simulated/computer-generated one. AR/MR is accessible via smartphones and tablets, and VR requires a headset device. 

Augmented Reality Applications for Healthcare 

Augmented reality solutions create rich and interactive experiences that link patients to their providers, breaking down barriers to care in a profound new way. These solutions extend the reach of physicians and vastly enhance their diagnostic abilities by providing data-driven insights that invigorate every level of medical practice. In just a few short years, extended reality software and hardware will play a leading role in delivering the end-to-end digital health ecosystem. 

AR technologies play a foundational role in improving medical training, organizational compliance, the automated implementation of medical best practices, and the application of corrective procedures at the first sign. At the forefront of the data revolution invigorating so many industries, healthcare has so much to gain from the more widespread adoption of augmented reality software and hardware solutions. 

Preparing the Next Generation of Medical Leaders 

One of the most impressive areas where AR software is making a huge impact is the area of education. Medical students, researchers, practicing physicians, and hospital administrators can all benefit tremendously from the 3D visualizations, Google Glass, avatars, mixed reality, and holograms that provide a new way of interpreting medical data and visualizing the human body. 

  • Medical Education — University medical centers use AR solutions to provide students with advanced ultra-realistic HD images of the physical exterior and internal anatomy.
  • Medical Training — AR software delivered via tablets allows practitioners to practice responding to simulations of different patient scenarios to improve social, technical, and team-based skills. 

Assistive Tool for Surgeons 

A surgeon wearing an AR headset is able to view mission-critical patient vital signs such as heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and breathing rate, as well as CT, MRI, and 3DUS scan data. AR tools provide medical teams with the information they need to make faster decisions, at a lower cost, leading to better medical outcomes. 

  • Medical Imaging — AR in healthcare delivers enhanced visualization of medical imaging data by superimposing stereoscopic projections over a surgical procedure. The data collected allows the surgeon to be more precise. Increased efficiency leads to better outcomes for patients, providers, and patients. 

Enhanced Vein Detection Capabilities 

AR-enhanced visualizations are vastly enhancing physicians’ ability to detect veins sparing patients from traumatizing and painful moments. All over the medical practice landscape, AR solutions improve care by allowing practitioners to do their core jobs in a quicker and more efficient way. Laser-guided medical procedures matched with HD anatomical visualizations help doctors to be more precise in everything they do. 

Empowering Patient-Centered Care 

As augmented reality solutions proliferate, adoption will happen on both the provider side as well as through patient-facing digital health apps. In the near future, patient visits will be vastly enhanced by the visual overlays of AR-enhanced software integration. Providers will be able to share information directly with patients during virtual visits in a new way that will ultimately remove barriers to care and invigorate patients to take a more active role in guiding their health. 

  • Patient-Centered Care — Researchers developed tools for evaluating patient behaviors to develop policies and care guidelines that better match person-focused care expectations. 

Final Thoughts

While augmented reality and virtual reality adoption may very well be in their infancy, it should be no surprise that America’s most prestigious medical facilities have already invested heavily in driving the innovation needed to make these novel technologies more accessible.

Boston Children’s Hospital, The Mayo Clinic, and the Cleveland Clinic are just a few of the elite hospital systems embracing augmented reality solutions to deliver better medical outcomes to their patients. In the coming years, these novel technologies will continue to transform medicine as key components of the digital health ecosystem. 

FAQ

What Is VR?

Virtual reality uses computer-generated, enhanced, and modified images and video to create a simulated environment. 

What is XR? 

Extended reality is a blanket term used to describe AR/MR, and VR/MR applications. XR may be used interchangeably with AR, VR/MR. 

What’s the difference between AR/MR and VR? 

AR/MR is based in the real-world environment while VR is a totally simulated/computer-generated one. AR/MR is accessible via smartphones and tablets, and VR requires a headset device. 

What are some augmented reality applications for healthcare? 

Medical Education — University medical centers use AR solutions to provide students with advanced ultra-realistic HD images of the physical exterior and internal anatomy.

Medical Training — AR software delivered via tablets allows practitioners to practice responding to simulations of different patient scenarios to improve social, technical, and team-based skills. 

Medical Imaging — AR in healthcare delivers enhanced visualization of medical imaging data by superimposing stereoscopic projections over a surgical procedure. The data collected allows the surgeon to be more precise. Increased efficiency leads to better outcomes for patients, providers, and patients.

Patient-Centered Care — Researchers developed tools for evaluating patient behaviors to develop policies and care guidelines that better match person-focused care expectations.

 

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