Healthcare has always been quick to adopt the latest technology to help enhance patient care. So it’s hardly a surprise to see augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) apps making their impact in the industry.
Although both AR and VR are highly immersive technologies that enable users to behave just like they would in the real-world (but in an artificial/virtual environment), the underlying technologies are quite different.
AR provides an enhanced version of reality with additional images or elements and VR delivers a completely simulated environment. Both technologies have the potential to transform how doctors and medical professionals are trained, how services are delivered, and much more.
So, have AR/VR apps optimized the healthcare industry? Let’s take a closer look.
1. Innovative and Immersive Therapies
The immersive nature of these technologies has created an opportunity to deliver innovative therapies that can help autistic kids overcome phobias. The idea here is to provide these real-life like experiences virtually to help these children practice coping techniques that can eventually help them overcome their fear.
For example, the Blue Room, developed by Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience has been highly successful with re-creating such real-world situations and it has made a difference.
LOROS Hospice in the U.K. is using VR to help bedridden and terminal patients experience mobility. They achieve this by delivering experiences like a walk in a park through VR headsets.
This initiative helps enhance the quality of life (even if it’s just by a little bit) for those patients who are stuck in one place for long periods of time.
VR technology is also being used within the corporate space to support wellbeing at work. For example, Psious (which is similar to the Blue Room) has been adopted by businesses around Spain to help staff better manage stress.
2. Medical Training and Education
Delivering medical training through AR/VR technologies has the potential to significantly reduce service delivery costs. This is because simulation training can also increase the number of students who participate in a session while reducing the number of educators and trainers required.
Medical students can also experience real-life surgeries happening in real-time through a headset. This approach has the potential to improve surgical training around the world.
Mixed AR/VR apps like VSI Surgery from Virtual Surgery Intelligence (VSI) helps doctors and other medical professionals get an in-depth look at CT and MRI imagery both before and during a surgical procedure. While this initiative improves surgical procedures, it can also be used as a training tool that provides an immersive look into highly complex surgical procedures.
VR technology has also helped leverage 3D imagery to make medical content more engaging. The idea here is to drive improved understanding and retention through immersive experiences.
For example, the company BioDigital provides cloud-based human 3D model features and over five thousand anatomical objects that can be extensively explored by students. Open Simulation is doing something similar with VR and 3D technology to democratize healthcare education with their affordable laparoscopic surgical-training simulator.
As a result, it’s safe to say that these types of approaches to medical training evens the playing field for medical students across the planet. However, these types of learning initiatives aren’t limited to medical students.
Today, patients can also use apps like HealthVoyager to better understand what their doctor found during a surgical procedure. This HIPPA-compliant platform takes the medical jargon out of your typical medical report communicates the information visually in a manner that’s a lot easier to understand.
3. Health and Fitness
Since the release of Pokemon Go, AR/VR apps within the health and fitness space have gone through a period of significant acceleration to get people active. This phenomenon can be attributed to the fact that users become highly incentivized to lead a healthier lifestyle when they monitor their own health.
For example, apps like Black Box VR can now bring the gym home to you by enabling a full workout where the reps you perform make your avatar powerful. Mobile AR apps like Zombies, Run! makes cardiovascular exercises more entertaining by combing elements of gaming and entertainment.
By motivating users to get more active, these types of AR/VR apps have the potential to get people to follow a healthy lifestyle that can, in turn, boost productivity at work and reduce overall healthcare costs.
AR/VR technologies in healthcare are still in their infancy and promise to deliver much more in the months and years to come. As headsets get cheaper, you can also expect accelerated adoption which will enable seamless access to AR/VR healthcare apps.