The implementation and adoption of new-age technologies such as Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR) are immensely driving and shaping the future of the healthcare industry with new and innovative solutions. Augmented and Virtual Reality are not new concepts, but tremendous advances have been registered in recent years due to the growth in camera and sensor technology and AR-focused software. Industries such as manufacturing, interior designing and architecture, education, tourism, defense, airlines, gaming, and entertainment, among others, are extensively using AR and VR for diverse applications for the past few years. Similarly, immense growth and rise in adoption have been registered in the healthcare sector. Augmented and Virtual Reality can provide interactive and immersive education to patients and enhance their experiences. It helps doctors and medical professionals get simulation-based training, making more accurate diagnoses and treatment plans. Similarly, to the hospital and healthcare providers, it helps to improve their patient experiences and provides huge scope for revenue generation.
The role and application of Augmented and Virtual Reality in the medical field have grown multiple folds in recent years and are set to exhibit growth in the coming years owing to technological innovations. Similarly, several major tech giants are actively working in the AR and VR market to offer new solutions and capture the market share.
Augmented and Virtual Reality in the Healthcare Industry
Virtual Reality is a computer-generated environment that provides a three-dimensional image or simulated experience to the user. Virtual Reality provides an immersive feel of a virtual world. The user can interact with a virtual environment through electronic equipment or 3D near-eye displays. While Augmented Reality (AR) is an interactive experience that merges the real world and computer-generated content. Augmented Reality uses displays, cameras, and sensors to overlay digital information in the real world to enhance the user’s experience. Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR) have several potential applications in healthcare and the medical field. The applications are consistently expanding and have already transformed some of the critical healthcare delivery segments.
Augmented Reality is already transforming healthcare, and it is changing the way physicians see patients. To fulfill the rising healthcare need and deliver better solutions, Augmented and Virtual Reality are the perfect solutions for healthcare providers, professionals, and patients. Augmented Reality is now majorly being used for doctor and patient education, disease simulation, and surgical visualization, and it also helps in life-threatening cases. Augmented Reality is even providing surgeons with 3D overlays to improve the visibility of veins, organs, and diagnosis reports. Additionally, Augmented Reality plays a crucial role in providing real-time simulation surgeries without the risk of getting it wrong with a live patient.
The role of AR and VR in the healthcare ecosystem is expected to grow in the coming years owing to the increasing penetration of connected devices in healthcare and increasing investments in AR and VR segment. Similarly, the ever-growing need for better and improved technologies is leading to the development of novel diagnostics and treatment plans and is immensely stimulating the integration of AR and VR in the Healthcare industry. The favorable policies by the government to support healthcare digitization are other major factors for the AR and VR growth in the healthcare landscape.
Major Uses/Applications of Augmented and Virtual Reality Benefits in the Healthcare Market
Augmented and Virtual Reality have several applications in the healthcare domain, some of the major evolving applications include:
Medical Education and Training Using Augmented and Virtual Reality
Providing and delivering simulations-based medical education/training to healthcare professionals is among the key application. It is observed that AR and VR can provide much more profound insight into nuances of body functions and can recreate real-life scenarios in the virtual world. The AR and VR solutions can overcome the existing challenges and provide interactive avenues to prepare medical personnel to deal with the disease and their ability to deliver more suitable treatment solutions.
Augmented and Virtual Reality Improving the Patient Experience
One of the significant applications of Augmented and Virtual Reality in the medical field is to improve the patient experience, provide better health outcomes, and enhance the engagement rate in every healthcare delivery mode. Virtual Reality aims to relax and stabilize the patient’s mind and is extremely useful in treating certain disorders. Over the past few years, several studies have evaluated the feasibility and efficacy of using meditative Virtual Reality to enhance the hospital experience of ICU patients. Similarly, some of the pilot studies have been conducted with different Virtual Reality devices to evaluate their effectiveness in various clinical settings.
Virtual Reality applications are getting diverse and can go as far as to take complete control of the patient’s sentiments and senses, such as sight, hearing, and feelings, which makes the environment feel incredibly genuine. Virtual Reality can be employed in the rehabilitation and therapeutic segment to reduce pain and anxiety and other medical procedures. Similarly, potential applications are under development to create specific environments to treat certain mental conditions, such as phobias, and addictions, among others.
Augmented Reality solutions are being implemented to improve the overall patient experience and make them stay informed with the interactive information and navigating features. Augmented Reality technology can overcome certain gaps in the treatment journey and provide an update in a more engaging manner by adding pop-up information and other interactive feature.
Augmented and Virtual Reality in Surgical Segment
VR and AR tools can display and provide interactive 2D and 3D images of physical procedures or anatomy. The Virtual Reality platform is changing the way surgeries are performed. Several major hospitals and healthcare facilities worldwide have incorporated 3D simulation-based training technologies in their facilities. Virtual Reality can create low-risk surgical testing environments or 3D anatomical images that provide realistic models of critical organs like the brain, heart, and eyes, among others. These tools are intended to help surgeons to maximize efficiency and minimize risk in the operating room.
Similarly, Augmented Reality can provide real-time medical references and information to the surgeon. The adoption and implementation of Augmented Reality can accelerate surgical operation prep times and reduces additional resource requirements and the associated staff costs. Overall, Augmented and Virtual Reality in the surgical department are expected to save time and money to a significant extent and set to transform the overall dynamics involved in surgical procedures such as planning, practice, and execution.
Evolving Role of AR and VR in Diagnostic Imaging and Risk Assessment
Diagnostics and accurate risk assessment for the disease’s signs and symptoms are one of the most crucial aspects of the treatment journey that ensure effective and safe health outcomes. Virtual Reality tools are to visualize the patient’s critical information and to improve overall visual control, establishing quantitative correlations, and surgical planning.
Similarly, Augmented Reality also has a key role to play in the diagnostics segment. A lot of diseases can be detected, prevented, and treated more effectively with the adoption of AR. The role of Augmented Reality in the treatment journey is highly evolving that starts with the visualization of data from sensors into a single, coherent interface and ends with the investigation of likely reasons for a patient’s condition. Augmented Reality tools can support in putting together and visualizing all the patient’s information, such as symptoms and results of different medical diagnoses. Physicians rely on Augmented Reality tools to see through the patient’s various body parts and structures. Like in the case of cancer, AR/VR can help in rendering information correlated to determining the patterns of cancer, and qualitative assessment for transformations in tumor shape and margin with time.
With the growth in technology and innovation, Augmented Reality is set to improve diagnostic accuracy to a significant extent in the coming years. Today, several potential products are under development that can perform a variety of tests and simulations using real-time statistics and extract more beneficial data for subsequent research. These devices are anticipated to hit the market in the upcoming years. However, the potential advantages and disadvantages of AR and VR in diagnosis need to be thoroughly assessed before final deployment, as these are novel technologies.
Augmented and Virtual Reality for Data Visualization and Body Mapping
Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) are 3D visualization technologies that can interact with microscopic images, molecular data, and anatomical datasets. These technologies can provide an in-depth visualization and provide comprehensibility of complex biological systems processing. It holds the potential for full body mapping and enhancing medical operations’ accuracy. When the issue is complicated or the doctor can’t physically attend the examination, a complete reproduction of the patient’s physique can be produced and examined. Similarly, with the help of these technologies, visualized patient data is possible with live stats that can assist in understanding and recognizing different patterns.
Digital extended reality (XR) can demonstrate and showcase critical cell biology concepts, multiplexed proteomics images, and surgical data in heart or heart operations. Similarly, Augmented Reality can show and compare the stats directly on the patient’s body through different advanced devices and can easily point out the problematic areas and show relevant stats.
Leading Companies in the Augmented and Virtual Reality Market
Globally, several major tech giants are actively working in the market to deliver various Augmented and Virtual Reality-based innovative solutions. Some of the key players in the segment include Microsoft, Magic Leap, Meta, Groove Jones, Google, Niantic, EON Reality, Oculus VR, Unity, Quytech, Nvidia, Samsung, Hedgehog Lab, Qualcomm, Warby Parker, zSpace, Unity Software, VironIT, VR Vision Inc, The Intellify, Innovation, NEXT/NOW, iTechArt Group Inc, NextVR, and others. The demand for Augmented and Virtual Reality based healthcare products and services is anticipated to increase in the coming years. Several tech giants and startups are predicted to enter the Augmented and Virtual Reality Market in the near future to fulfill various evolving needs and grab the market share.
Augmented and Virtual Reality Future Analysis and Prospective
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are game-changing technology in the healthcare industry, with a diverse range of applications and solutions to cater to the different evolving needs of patients and healthcare providers. Today most applications are in the infancy stage, however, with the ongoing development and innovation in the domain, Augmented and Virtual Reality are expected to take a big leap and are anticipated to deliver several interactive solutions, especially in the field of education and treatment. The future holds a lot of potential for other healthcare segments as well. The adoption of these technologies across different service delivery verticals will immensely transform the healthcare outcome.
However, there are several technical and non-technical limitations of AR and VR technologies such as lack of clinicians’ knowledge, limited awareness about these technologies, absence of suitable standards, insufficient infrastructure, organizational culture, and management support, among others. These issues need to be resolved for the successful and proper usage and implementation of these in the healthcare systems. Governments worldwide are also actively focusing on healthcare digitalization and are formulating favorable initiatives and implementing policies to adopt new technologies in their healthcare approach. Similarly, tech giants are also extensively concentrating on resolving some ground-level issues and challenges in the healthcare domain with groundbreaking AR and VR solutions. Overall, the future prospects of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in the healthcare sector look promising and hold immense potential for each stakeholder in the healthcare industry.