Augmented Reality in Health Care.

The assistances that augmented reality (AR) can fetch to the field of healthcare and medicine are revolutionary. Medical institutions are beginning to implement AR into their curriculum to provide students with a valuable hands-on learning experiences. Augmented reality is not one of the latest innovations, it has been in development stages since 1960’s but is now making its way into various industries which include gaming, automotive, real estate, retail and even health care. AR technology lets users see the real world and projects the digital information into existing environment. In various ways AR is considered to be a mixture of VR, imposed into real life. However, augmented reality uses real world objects to portray augmentation of new dimensions but virtual reality is forming completely new dimensions outside the real world surroundings usually through VR lens. These virtual contents are typically in the form of digital imagery or sound, usually applied in 3D models or videos. AR works via the use of range of sensors such as a camera, computer components or a display device. This brings the application of AR technology in the healthcare industry and new opportunities are opening up.

New AR innovations will help surgeons and doctors enhance and improve their ability to diagnose, treat and perform a particular surgery on their patients more accurately as the initial diagnoses has been carried out efficiently by the provision of real time data and information faster and more precisely than ever before. AR can also bring benefits that could be groundbreaking for the healthcare industry. It brings great value to practicing medicine and education by allowing students and trainee physicians to visualize health issues and scenarios that they would be treating one day.  Since the real time data that is provided is likely to be very advanced, it can act as a life-saving information about the patient which will help surgeons use this during simple or eve complex procedures. This brings ease and an increased number of surgeries turning out positive as the process is completely hassle free and very effective. Through AR, surgeons will be able to visualize bones, muscles and internal organs without even having to cut open the body. This will also help them determine exactly where to give injections and incisions during medical emergencies when diagnoses is likely impractical as it may take too much time. Doctors can perform low-risk surgeries and can help surgeons save time in the case of an emergency, instead of going through and searching among medical records or notes as this information can be accessed through AR screens within seconds.

At hospitals like Imperial college and St. Mary’s Hospital in London, the adoption of AR has already begun, where doctors and surgeons use the Microsoft’s HoloLens AR glasses as a part of reconstructive surgeries on patients who have severe injuries. The imperial team used the technology to over lay images of CT scans, including the position of bones and key blood vessels – onto each patient’s leg. This allowed the surgeons to ‘see through’ the limb during the surgery. This improves the outcome of the patients as surgeons can locate and reconnect key blood vessels. This can be one of the many examples of how AR can assist surgeons during procedures. Application of this equipment is a tremendous aid as surgeons can get assistance no matter what type of surgery they are conducting whether it is a minimal procedure or taking on a life tumor during surgery, AR can benefit them and help them save lives of many which may have been difficult without the guidance of AR. This may add up to the beginning of the procedure where the doctors determine their patients’ symptoms which may have been vaguely described, augmented reality makes this possible as doctors have an insight into the patient’s body before treating the disease.

As high tech advances have clearly improved outcomes in medicine. AR technologies will also offer medical professionals to constantly detect and give feedback to students during their medical practice. This tech has a way to evolve for all this to be realized and implemented into daily routine of medicine. Through the assistance of AR in training medical students or even regular appointments, we will be able to see AR images that can be incorporated resulting in accurate results projected with clear diagnoses and provides space for precise decisions to be made. However, there are a variety of technical and even societal challenges by incorporating AR into healthcare and medicine, but it is certainly doable and will be commonly seen within the next few years.