When people discuss augmented reality, not many think about the healthcare field. However, AR stands to have a big impact on patient care. From the ER to gathering patient scans, AR glasses will be a useful tool for doctors.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented reality is a technology that overlays computer-generated images and information over a person’s view of the real world. A great example of AR many people know is when a superimposed yellow line of a first down is shown over the field during the telecast of a football game.
Currently, the technology is widely used in the gaming industry. The prime example being Pokémon Go, an app that people use on their phone. Players can spot and catch fictional Pokémon in real places such as the mall or in the park. A computer-generated Pokémon appears on the screen of the phone, while the background is a real-world view of where the person is standing.
AR is also utilized in the retail industry. Companies like Ikea and Sephora are using it to allow users to try out their products. Sephora uses it to show how a makeup product might look on a customer, while Ikea utilizes it for seeing how a piece of furniture works in a room.
Augmented reality is different from mixed reality. AR displays information into a person’s field of view, whereas mixed reality merges the real and virtual worlds. MR brings the real and virtual world together to create new environments where digital and physical objects co-exist and interact with one another.
How the Field of Medicine Embraced AR
The healthcare industry has jumped at the opportunity to use augmented reality. From finding veins to seeing how a drug works, doctors haven’t wasted time incorporating it into everyday uses.
Allowing patients to see how a drug works on their body is one way doctors are testing AR. Rather than reading a label on the medicine bottle, people will scan a code and see a 3D model of the drug’s effect on their body. This would also be useful for lab workers working on experiments for new drugs.
AccuVein is making both patients and nurses happier. This device is a handheld scanner that shows nurses and doctors where to locate a patient’s veins using AR. Reducing the number of needle sticks for blood samples or IV’s will make a lot of people happier.
AED4EU is an app to help people find defibrillators. Created in the Netherlands, this app uses AR to locate defibrillators near you. Hospitals and other locations can add the location of where their devices to the app’s database. When a user opens the app, it projects their location and where to find the nearest device.
Moving into AR glasses, there are a few examples of this technology being used today. St. Mary’s Hospital in London used AR glasses during a leg reconstructive surgery. The AR overlaid CT scans on the patient’s leg to help with navigation and provide accurate information for dissection.
Doctors in Boston used AR glasses and its projections during heart surgery. They used 3D projections of hearts during the procedure to visualize scarring in the heart.
AR glasses are also being incorporated into patient diagnosis and treatment. Companies like ThirdEye Gen provide glasses that allow communication with doctors not in the room for patient treatment or visualization of a treatment plan while talking to a patient.
What’s Next for AR Glasses
Looking to the future, there are many parts of the healthcare field that will utilize AR glasses. When reviewing the examples below, remember that these can also be included in a medical student’s education.
ER – Wearing AR glasses, physicians in the ER will have access to imaging data or patient records. Imagine an ER doctor having all the information about a patient before they arrive in the ambulance. By having first responders recording and sharing information with ER teams, patients will not wait long before receiving treatment.
Surgery – Integration of patient data is a big opportunity for surgical AR glasses. Without having to scrub in again, doctors will be able to access and view patient data and scans in real time. AR glasses will allow them to view fluorescent markers and other body information. There’s also a chance for AR to let doctors practice surgery before performing it.
Including AR in the OR and for bedside procedures will also bring together all patient data in one place and not multiple screens. Thus reducing the chance for missing information or overlooking something.
Patient Records – Accessing data without interrupting care, plus compiling it into one place is a big plus for doctors. By simply speaking or pressing a button, doctors will not have to ignore a speaking patient to open a chart or look over a scan. Having all this information in one place will also make it easier to share with larger teams of doctors.
The future of healthcare will be shaped by AR glasses, such as ThirdEye’s X2 and X1a MR glasses. From easily accessible information to visualizing internal structures, this technology will have a big impact on the future of patient care.