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AR & VR in Healthcare

Not very long ago, AR and VR were just a part of Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi movies and a thing of fantasy for all. But the times have changed- and technology has evolved a lot. From its application in mainstream video gaming and entertainment industries to its penetration in the healthcare, research, and development sector- AR/ VR is sprouting and how!  

Although the use of VR and AR in medicines is not very new, it exploded exponentially in recent years. With the pandemic, various providers are looking for ways to foster a better connection with their patients and provide more personalized care even with very limited physical contact.  

With a combination of better technological advancement, higher speed of internet, the evolving demand in the market, and an overall adaptation of the consumers- the AR/ VR healthcare technologies are at a rise within the IoT landscape.  

But here’s a thing that we can’t deny- AR and VR technology are still immature and in infancy. And yet, the amount of impact they create in the healthcare industry is commendable. Also, in developed countries like U.S. and Germany, more than 25% of hospitals use AR/VR software for increasing efficiency and curtailing the overall cost.  

MarketsandMarkets says that the VR and AR market for healthcare will grow at a rate of 30.7% per year up to 2025. But let us not assume things and discuss the current state of virtual and augmented reality in healthcare. In this article, we will do the same and explore the scope of their uses.  

Let us see how far the new-gen tech has got us!  

  Virtual Reality Technology In Healthcare  

Here’s an interesting fact- Israel will soon be welcoming its citizens with the world’s first fully VR-based hospital.  

THIS is a HUGE step.  

The application of VR in healthcare is very different from that in any other sector. The healthcare industry’s culture and regulations are not very familiar with it- but it aims at helping patients to improve their quality of life by conjunction with medication, therapy, and treatment. It holds the potential of democratizing learning, enhancing visualization of human anatomy, decreasing trauma, providing more ways of performing experiments, and improving outcomes, and more while lowering medical costs.  

Examples  

VR provides great assistance in assessing patients, diagnosing the disorder, and managing the symptoms. Here are a few devices that enable creating VR:  

  1. Haptic gloves– These are special gloves that enable the natural interaction of a user with virtual environments. These are capable of reproducing surgical simulations and can make the process of learning more effective and immersive.
  2. Smart glasses– These aid doctors in providing correct diagnostic tests and medical procedures, thus improving clinical outcomes. For example, doctors use Google Glass during surgeries for data visualization and video recording.
  3. Head-mounted display– These devices have a head strap mounted onto the user’s head, and the display lenses and earphones stay attached to the strap. These provide an immersive VR experience when we place an object in front of a user. For example, HTCVive, Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, or Gear VR.  

Benefits Of VR In Healthcare  

VR does not provide a sole answer to a medical issue- it only offers a potential for treatment that needs to work combined with the clinician’s intuition and knowledge. Thus, virtual reality is a kind of HCI (human-computer interaction) that is central to modern medicine. Here are the benefits of VR in healthcare:  

For Practitioners  

Healthcare professionals can better serve their patients with the ease of use and powerful processing power of VR- while ultimately saving money and still improving patient care.  

Good-quality VR can teach the foundation and details of various procedures to medical students, dental practitioners, and aspiring doctors who need to practice their craft to become qualified. These serve as training simulators.  

For Patients  

VR technology can radically improve patient care because these are way more interactive than any video, audio, or other 2D media. VR makes everything comfortable and life-like for patients- thus making them feel like they entered an unrealized environment and are physically present within it.  

This technology is especially helpful in psychological therapy, mental health diagnosis, treatment of anxiety, ADHD, neural disorders, and more. Scientists can develop medicines by simulating an environment for drugs preparation. Thus, pain management is also possible using virtual reality medicine applications.  

Augmented Reality In Healthcare Industry  

The use of an AR app in healthcare is somewhat similar yet different from VR. Augmented reality supplements the view of the real world with auditory and visual overlays, but it does not create a seamless, simulated world- unlike virtual reality.  

The AR technology can collect information and provide access to this information to the frontline workers while they are still sitting behind their desks. This type of interaction is safer than the interaction through physical proximity- which is very helpful in the pandemic. Medical centers and hospitals are experiencing the benefits of this tech. Thus, AR will likely stay even after the pandemic is over.  

Benefits Of AR In Healthcare  

There are various noble benefits of AR applications in healthcare. Let us look at some of these:  

Surgical Assistance  

AR can create 3D models of tumors or organs. The surgeon can use this as a reference to view the model through a hands-free headset when performing the surgery. The model appears to hover as a hologram (due to the headset) over the surgical field. The surgeon can then use an on-screen notation for guidance. The incisions and other surgical procedures can get superimposed on the patient’s real-time image in the form of directions. The surgeon can then see it and follow the correct path for performing the surgery.  

Remote Guidance  

By using an AR app in healthcare, an expert can provide remote guidance to a doctor. A two-way video and audio headset will enable both the experts to see the same view of the patient. Then the specialist can guide the doctor for a real-time surgery. Thus, the patient can get better treatment and a safer outcome.  

Virtual Training  

Just like the previous case, dentists, medical practitioners, and students can also benefit from virtual training using VR. Here, a remote mentor can understand the student’s view and advise them on the procedure/ diagnosis (even if they are in another location). The students can benefit from the process of learning by doing. This way, they can gain hands-on experience while still reducing the risk to patients.  

Diagnosis and Thermal Imaging  

The AR applications in healthcare are helpful for patient diagnoses. It allows the healthcare providers to gather details, reports, statistics about the patient. They can perform full-body scans to visualize these symptoms and uncover them. Thermal imagining helps in assessing a patient’s temperature. Diagnoses with AR technology reduce the need for personal PPE (protection equipment) by minimizing contact between the patient, nurse, as well as doctor.  

Telehealth and Proctoring  

Pandemic has made telehealth the preferred way for delivering healthcare- since the patients don’t want to risk the need of visiting the doctor for receiving care. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, telehealth was one of its Top Health Industry Issues in the year 2021. AR helps in making the telehealth visit feel more like an office visit. It helps the doctors remotely perform a visual check and monitor the vital signs of outward symptoms of their patients. As a result, the patient will get a face-to-face experience with the doctor without exposing themselves to the danger of contamination. 

Future Of VR And AR In Healthcare: A Win-Win  

The development of AR/ VR technology is way better than what we anticipated a few years ago. We expect the same in the future as well. With 4k video resolution, higher internet speed, availability of 5G (and a possible 6G and more), higher production of raw materials and resources for development, and adaptation of the VR and AR medical apps- this sector will only continue to grow and evolve.  

One of the market drivers for both- AR and VR- is the potential reduction of manpower (and possibly cost). But the primary driver is the scope of medical advancements that it provides.  
Scientists are looking forward to utilizing VR/ AR medical apps along with research stats to come up with better diagnoses with tests like ELISA. Gene therapy, in particular, has seen a significant development using better computers. VR/ AR can potentially come up with similar treatments that may develop a cure for cancer, diabetes, AIDS, and even help with better research with stem cells, plasma, working of T cells, and many more.  

Addressing The Disparities  

It is no brainer that every technology has seen its own roadblocks. In the case of AR/ VR healthcare, these barriers are not just technological- but also psychological.  

The former barrier is very evident- we don’t yet have enough resources to develop AR and VR solutions, especially for the commoners. The technology is still in its infancy, and the cost of development can sometimes be crazy expensive. But with the regular development of new alternatives and increasing production of required raw material, this issue may cease to exist over a span of a few decades.  

Let us now address the latter issue. Humans are still apprehended towards using technology in every process- especially when it comes to saving another life.  

To be clear, medical practitioners won’t mind deploying a VR/ AR medical app in their day-to-day treatment and diagnosis as long as it still works under human supervision. A machine can create dispersions. Machine learning and IoT are still not developed enough to replace the human intellect. Thus, the major concern behind the deployment of any VR/ AR medical app and service in a medical procedure is the risk that it carries.  

We don’t yet have a plausible answer to this question. But we can only hope that AR and VR work combined with the human intellect in the future to help people develop a better, higher-quality life.  

After all, technology must be there to venerate us and not slay us.  

How Much Does An AR and VR App Cost?  

The cost of developing augmented and virtual reality applications in healthcare depends entirely on the type of service it offers to its patients and practitioners. An app with more complex services will take more development time and will cost more.  

For starters, you would require a backend part (developer-visible part) for developing the frontend part (consumer-visible part) of the app. Then the UI designer designs its overall appearance. The app owner would require a panel for module control, integration with third parties, such as Payment Modes, Google Maps, etc.  

Thus, the cost of developing on-demand augmented and virtual reality applications in healthcare would range anywhere between 40000 – 200000 USD for development alone.  

Wrapping It Up  

The lack of access to advanced technology, 5G network, 5G-enabled devices, and high-speed internet serves as a major barrier in the use of VR/ AR medical apps and services. Nonetheless, this new age market is still forging ahead and expanding at an impressive pace. Looking at the rise of AR/ VR/ IoT compatible devices, this tech will soon be a mainstay in every sector- including healthcare.  

Virtual and Augmented Reality healthcare applications will be able to mimic the mind and body pretty well sooner or later- providing scientists with a better scope of research and experimentation. Augmented and virtual reality used in the medical field is a hot area of interest that keeps gaining momentum. And it wouldn’t be too much at our end to expect more groundbreaking benefits and positive changes soon! 

But as optimistic as we can be, there is no hard and fast scope of reducing the AR/ VR technology price- mainly due to the array of features it covers. However, you can still look for white label solutions and pre-built apps to cut your time, energy, and budget in development. We, at JumpGrowth, offer you client-centric app and software development services in the USA. Want to know more? Drop us a hi, and our representative will get back to you in no time! 

 

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