Healthcare has always been complex, but the 21st century has brought unprecedented changes. Soaring costs, demand for more personalized patient experiences, and an increased effort to deliver care to remote and underserved populations pose a litany of new challenges.
The healthcare industry is undergoing tremendous change. In particular, the pace of technological innovation, desire for more personalized patient experiences, increased medical expenses, and an increasing outreach to remote places pose a litany of new challenges.
With the expanding use of connected devices, coupled with computer vision and artificial intelligence, the healthcare industry is being redefined by augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Mobile phones, wearables, and head mounted displays are driving new interactions between the real world and virtual objects to transform the way healthcare services are delivered and improve the overall quality of patient care. For example, by wearing an AR enabled head mounted device, surgeons can now view patient vitals during a procedure without the need to look away and gather data from multiple displays. In doing so, surgeons are less likely to make errors due to misreading and/or mis-interpreting the data.
In fact, Goldman Sachs predicts that the use of AR and VR in the healthcare industry will reach $5.1 billion by 2025,1 while MarketsAndMarkets expects growth to $6.5 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 30.7%.2 Adoption of these technologies will drive the digitization of healthcare, and present valuable opportunities for application for payers, healthcare professionals and providers, and medical devices.
The key innovative applications are in areas of surgical simulation for doctors to plan and prepare for surgery, high-resolution imaging diagnostics to provide true 3D data visualization, patient care, rehabilitation of PTSD and special needs, lifestyle management, medical equipment maintenance and compliance to regulatory standards. VR can help patients to get over phobias and stress induced disorders. It can help a patient undergoing therapy session like chemotherapy with much needed mind diversion. Hospitals working in optimized lean operations, could suffer huge in monetary and customer satisfaction terms, if any of the critical apparatus has unintended downtime.
Below are some of the applications of artificial reality for the industry:
Application of artificial reality for:
- Explaining insurance plans - By simulating real-life situations, artificial reality can simplify the complex process of explaining insurance products. Instead of a lengthy brochure, customers can engage with an immersive, informative experience. Along with providing a great experience, an interactive conversation will further reduce the service requests arising due to lack of understanding.
- Marketing and customer engagement - With deeper penetration of artificial reality enabled devices Insures can create awareness about the importance of buying different types of insurance are part of new marketing and customer engagement plans. This will open new avenues to reach new customers at the same time retaining existing ones.
- Virtual customer care - Artificial reality-based solutions can provide policy holders real-time guidance on how to fill out claims forms, resolve billing issues and other service requests, without having to contact insurance agents or a service desk.
- Remote guidance and employee training - Leveraging AR solutions can bridge the physical and informational distance between new and experienced employees and between agents and customers by enabling remote connectivity and ease of sharing contextual data. The remote expert and support a on field staff whenever needed. This is especially useful for training claims processors, who have one of the most important jobs in the industry. Remote technical experts can also provide a second pair of eyes, and help train agents in real time using AR.
- Fitness instructors - Artificial reality can supplement human instruction, providing trainers the means to coach and evaluate performance anytime, anywhere. Artificial reality can also provide student users firsthand knowledge of equipment, their training regime and their performance.
- Healthy eating - The Artificial Reality solution can be used to inculcate healthy eating habits by providing the nutritional information about the foods and motivating the users to follow balanced diet.
- Physical therapy - Through immersive, interactive environments, artificial reality-based solution could be used to motivate users to do their physical therapy exercises and can collect hard data on things like range of motion. It offers immersive, interactive artificial environments that trick patients into doing physical therapy exercises. For patients suffering from partial immobility of a limb, virtual reality can alleviate the stress by projecting an image of the nonfunctional limb that is controlled by the patient's movement of the working right hand.
- Surgery virtualization - Some surgeries are dangerously complicated. An operation can have multiple sub-steps, the outcome of each related to another and any deviation can be detrimental. Artificial reality can provide digital models for planning and detailing of an operation, and playing out various scenarios to optimize the sequence and help prepare a detailed course of action and related contingencies
- Patient insights - Patients are often in the dark about medical procedures or the effects of medicines they’re prescribed. Virtualized insights on a patient’s condition and medications can raise awareness and confidence, and encourage proper dosage.
- Patient rehabilitation - These technologies can provide guidance and support to patients recovering from surgery. AR and VR can simulate controlled environments to assist with managing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or anxiety.
- Medical training - The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates a shortage of 12.9 million physicians, nurses and other health workers worldwide.3 Virtualized trainings and immersive, interactive learning experiences—like a layer-by-layer study of human anatomy and body mechanics—would make it easier to prepare medical practitioners, and provide deeper insights into the nuances of body functions.
- Doctor training - Life science companies can use artificial reality technology to educate and engage health care providers on therapies and procedures to improve treatment outcomes. Companies can provide compelling stories with illustrations on bodily impacts of a disease at different stages and the effects of treatments.
- Telemedicine - A report by Forbes estimates that telemedicine offerings (about 80 specialties, including neurology, dermatology and pediatrics) will be optimized for increased patient use and adoption, saving about $100 per visit when virtual care is used. 4 Telemedicine helps decentralize provider services, enabling a shift from specialized large-setting services, to more community-based and cost-effective locales.5
- Global epidemics - Outbreaks strain resources, and a lack of medical attention can be fatal. Artificial reality can extend the reach and collaboration of providers. Specialists can do remote physical inspections of patients, can visualize vitals and prescribe treatment instantaneously.
- Device operator training - Virtual training can promote more thorough, sophisticated learning experiences by providing remote digital support and expertise anytime during the course of training.
- Device maintenance and troubleshooting - Non-functioning hospital equipment can be fatal. Artificial reality can help field engineers troubleshoot by overlaying step-by-step instructions via mobile or head mounted display devices. This technology can also assist with calibrating devices and preventive maintenance.
- Marketing pitches - Instead of relying on traditional printed brochures, sales representatives can use augmented reality-based devices to let healthcare providers experience products, deep dive into the technical specifications, and get a 360° perspective of the device and its operations.
Augmented reality has tremendous potential in healthcare. With the use of technology, healthcare can be made more affordable and can increase outreach to millions of individuals. The technology has the potential to address health awareness, disease outbreak and preventions, diagnosis, medical equipment upkeep and training, treatment and therapy planning, patient monitoring, lifestyle improvement and patient care.
These technologies can be one day used for support and care of treatment of battlefield patients or even road rage incidents. First respondents on ground might help the patient in first few critical moments by performing HCP guided first-aid treatment, which can help save many lives.
The use of head mounted displays enables doctors to keep their eyes on patient with overlay of critical information like seeing images of ultrasound and other health monitoring parameters displayed on array of screens of multiple monitoring devices. In future it may enable to do away with the screens on individual devices and enable and integrated view of patient from the head mounted headgear.
With advancement in technology coupled with upcoming technologies like 5G, IoT and nano sensors, more and more opportunities are opening-up. With high-speed network, remote diagnosis and surgeries can penetrate to masses across globe.
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