How Can Augmented Reality be Useful in the Healthcare Field?

While people may be most familiar with the technology through games like Pokémon Go, augmented reality in healthcare is becoming commonplace as innovators seek to improve medical processes. Unlike virtual reality, which creates an immersive experience detached from the actual environment, augmented reality projects further information, images, and alterations onto the existing environment. The possible healthcare uses are many, and healthcare professionals are enjoying augmented reality programs that enable them to better meet the needs of patients through improved accuracy, training, and knowledge. New augmented reality technology for healthcare is developed and tested daily with several promising applications already emerging for use.

Professional Use

Some of the most promising developments in augmented reality technology are meant for direct use by healthcare professionals in their work with patients. AccuVein, for example, is a scanner that projects onto a patient’s arm, enabling nurses or healthcare assistants to more accurately locate veins for IVs, injections, and blood draws. Technology reporting site Tech Republic explains that nurses using AccuVein are 3.5x more likely to accurately find a vein the first time they insert the needle. This considerably reduces the anxiety felt by both parties when it takes several attempts to locate a vein.

Surgeons look forward to further training in augmented reality programs that will assist them in operating; these programs will create 3D representations of tumors or organs that surgeons can use to improve surgical accuracy. Similar programs project 3D models of brain scans or body parts to assist doctors in studying potential problems and explaining their findings to patients.

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Medical Training

Augmented reality in healthcare is making strides in worldwide educational improvements that empower students to learn surgical procedures and anatomical instruction faster. One of these educational tools involves the use of items like Google glasses. Surgeons in operating theaters that wear the device can internationally stream the live operation to classrooms. Students performing practice surgeries on dummies can benefit from wearing a similar device that will record their work, allowing for detailed instructional feedback. Other augmented reality innovations connect pieces of bone or organ models to detailed anatomical information. These interactive study aides accelerate learning through enhancing traditional educational practices.

Preventative Healthcare

While some of the most exciting innovations are designed for use by healthcare professionals, there are a growing number of augmented reality tools meant to be referred to patients as resources for improving day-to-day health. One subset of these tools is game-like augmented reality programs that are designed to make exercise more rewarding and enjoyable. A more somber application uses glasses to simulate eyesight with a cataract or other preventable eye condition to encourage a patient in pursuing positive healthy lifestyle or diet changes. Glasses augmented reality devices are being tested by breastfeeding consultants who are literally able to see the situation from their client’s perspective. This provides an opportunity for effective feedback at increased convenience to new parents. One of the most exciting developing uses for these glasses is in aiding the ability of individuals with vision impairment to drive, recognize faces, and read.

Technology developments geared towards professionals, students, and patients hold an array of possibilities for better patient outcomes and experiences. Augmented reality in healthcare expands the borders of what the field can achieve.