Four Ways in which Immersive Technology is Transforming Lives: VR and AR in Healthcare

Many healthcare providers are now looking to VR and AR technology to transform the healthcare industry including doctors and patients’ lives.  Whether this is by training new surgeons or in helping end-of-life patients tick off bucket list items, Virtual and Augmented Reality is a big player in the future of the healthcare sector. 

Healthcare providers are looking to incorporate both virtual reality and augmented reality into their domain.  The potential for such technology has been showcased at the 2018 Giant Health Event, which was held at the Stamford Bridge Stadium (home of Chelsea Football Club), London.   A surgeon, Professor Shafi Ahmed, believes that these innovations, along with other technology such as AI (artificial intelligence), have made today the “most exciting time to be working in medicine”.    With this in mind, let’s have a look at some ways in which AR and VR can transform lives. 

What is Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in Healthcare?

Augmented Reality (AR) works in a similar way to Pokémon Go (bear with me!) in that it places animation around a real-life view of the world.   VR is different in that it is immersive and shuts of the real world.   There’s a new combination emerging, however, called Mixed Reality (MR) which aims to have the immersion of VR with the real world backdrop of AR. Here are a few examples of augmented reality and virtual reality in healthcare. 

1. Surgeon Training

surgeon training using AR and VR

A critical part of a surgeon’s training is the shadowing of surgeons. However, only two students are allowed inside a surgery at any one time.  This proves difficult when some hospitals have in excess of 300 students for every year group.  This logistical problem can be circumnavigated by the use of VR technology.  With cameras installed at angles in the operating theater, a full 360-view can be gained, with students wearing VR headsets for full immersion in the high-pressure setting of surgery, allowing them to gain the experience but in a controlled and more comfortable way. The footage doesn’t have to be viewed in real time but can be downloaded at leisure with a VR headset. As virtual reality in healthcare and augmented reality in healthcare continues to transform and specifically with surgery here are some of the latest developments. 

Practice makes perfect: How VR is revolutionizing surgical training

When it comes to hospitals, so far in 2020 the biggest concern has been about them being totally overloaded due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Images circulating online have shown exhausted medical staff, faces reddened and blotchy after long days wearing PPE masks and visors. Even without crises like the predicted shortage of ventilators in some places, most of us expect that hospital staff are busier than ever with patients right now.
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Osso VR Surgical Training Platform Updates With Stunning Level Of Fidelity

Osso VR, a surgery training platform, is rolling out an update with a stunningly high level of graphical fidelity, increasing the realism and immersion for those using the platform to train before performing surgery in real-life.
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The Gloves Stay On Demoing VR Surgical App Precision OS

So when surgical training specialist Precision OS offered the chance to take a look at its platform and how the future was shaping up for this area of the healthcare industry, it was a definitive yes.
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Tokyo hospital uses VR to livestream surgery for education, research in a COVID-19 world

A hospital in Japan has turned to virtual reality (VR) and enhanced camera technology as a potential solution to research and education challenges posed by the novel coronavirus outbreak. At the time of writing, there are over 6.1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide. The spread of the respiratory disease has not only caused health, social, and economic devastation, but also disruption in education and research.
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2. Pain Relief

virtual reality woman in healthcare environment arvrhealth

At first medical use of VR was as a tool for the management of pain.  The idea of immersive technology was thought up by researchers at the University of Washington in the mid-90s.  This treatment, first aimed at patients who had suffered burns, was with patients experiencing an almost game-like scenario of throwing snowballs at a penguin to distract them from their pain.   Their research showed that burn victims suffered from up to 50% less pain when they were immersed in Virtual Reality. 

Using VR and AR for Pain Management

Immersive technologies have been used for the past 30 years to treat pain, PTSD, phobia, anxiety, and phantom limb syndrome, said Deepa Mann-Kler at Women in Tech Dublin. She explained that the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Since we are visual by nature, we can use VR and AR in pain management, she argued.
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Virtual reality – health benefits and issues

Virtual Reality (VR) devices have steadily encroached into many people’s everyday lives. And no, we’re not just talking entertainment. VR has also made headway into education. This involvement naturally causes some to bemoan yet another electronic distraction in the classroom. But that pushback may not be warranted—some surprising studies have suggested that VR has some positive applications/side effects.
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Study Finds Virtual Reality Can Help Reduce Severe Pain

Virtual reality (VR) is quickly transforming the healthcare industry, changing the way patients and doctors receive and give care. Some pregnant women are experimenting with VR headsets to ease the pains of childbirth. And in 2017, burn victims started using VR gaming to lessen the excruciating pain of having their bandages changed. Now new research from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center supports the growing belief that therapeutic VR can safely and effectively reduce severe pain in hospitalized patients.
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Why Some Doctors Are Using VR Instead of Anesthesia!

Could there be a medicine that reduces pain and anxiety, replaces anesthesia in minor surgeries, shortens hospital stays, is non-addictive, and non-invasive, all while saving us all a ton of money? Sounds a little too good to be true, right? But it exists! And maybe, you’ve even given it a try before.
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3. AR for Medical Students

human body augmented reality healthcare

Microsoft’s HoloLens is a headset that creates a hologram of some digital content in the real-world environment.  This means that students are able to look at realistic images of the heart or brain and are able to rotate, take apart, enlarge and examine them in detail right in front of them.  Surgeons too can create their own holograms when they are preparing a complex operation. Here we take a look at a few of the ways that augmented reality is being utilized for medical students and for training. In addition there are several new and exciting applications that are being used today that are helping advance the augmented reality in healthcare movement. Here are just some of the exciting developments using AR in healthcare.

How Augmented Reality Is Used In Teaching Anatomy

In recent years, we have been seeing growing interest in the applications of augmented reality beyond the world of gaming. There is, for instance, increasingly prominent utilization of AR in education. AR’s immersive nature offers limitless opportunities to spice up boring classroom lectures—and of course, enhance learning. Hence, it’s no surprise that educators from all levels of education are experimenting with it. That includes medical school.
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Augmented Reality Hospitals Market Share, Current Trends and Research Development Report to 2025

A recent report on Augmented Reality Hospitals Market provides a detailed analysis of the industry size, revenue forecasts and geographical landscape pertaining to this business space. Additionally, the report highlights primary obstacles and the latest growth trends accepted by key players that form a part of the competitive spectrum of this business.
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Coronavirus Pandemic Brings New Use Cases for Augmented Reality

Sheba Medical Center in Israel and broadband provider Cox Communications Inc. are among several organizations that have found new uses for augmented reality during the coronavirus pandemic, and they plan to continue using the data-visualization technology beyond the crisis.
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The game-changers: 10 execs outline the defining tech of the next 10 years

Health IT leaders are forward-looking executives responsible for identifying and implementing technology that will have the greatest effect on clinical care, hospital operations and health system costs. There are several emerging technologies CIOs and IT leaders see as the way of the future for healthcare organizations, including augmented reality, artificial intelligence-enabled technology, precision medicine and virtual care support.
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4. Palliative Care

female-patient-in-hospital-using-virtual-reality-googles

When a patient is on end-of-life care, it is difficult for them to experience things that they have long wanted to but are now physically unable.  AR and VR don’t just offer training and life-saving treatment, they can also allow these patients to have a better quality of life through their experiences.  With AR or VR, they could skydive, run alongside wild horses, or even swim with dolphins. It can be used as a form of escapism from their own rather bleak reality.

VR making a big impact on palliative care

Healthcare providers are starting to use virtual reality (VR) headsets more and more for patient care, providing moments of escape for individuals who need them the most.  At Carefor Hospice in Ontario, for example, VR technology was brought in to help palliative care patients explore the world without even venturing outside.
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How VR is letting palliative patients ‘complete their bucket list’

Computer-generated experiences help hospice residents with depression and boredom. Last November, Darrell Johnson was diagnosed with glioblastoma,  the deadly disease that took the lives of Ottawa Centre NDP MP Paul Dewar and the Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie. The first thing that came to his mind when he was diagnosed was a joke he made in university about having a brain tumour — but this time, it was no laughing matter.
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As Technology Advances, Hospice Evolves

Hospice is in a state of flux. The industry is evolving with the changing health care landscape in terms of practice, payment models and the pervasive presence of technology. Hospices nationwide are leveraging technological advancement to improve their workflows, improve efficiency and enhance patient care.
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VR lets Cornwall Hospice patients see the world and stay connected

There’s nothing easy about being in palliative care, even though patients are surrounded by caring staff and volunteers dedicated to making their final days as comfortable as possible. Being bedridden as your time comes near means missing out on important events in the lives of your friends and family outside, and it means knowing that you won’t have the chance to see the places you had hoped to travel to. Plus, it could be just plain boring. Carefor Cornwall Hospice may have found a way to help alleviate these challenges. The hospice recently purchased two state-of-the-art virtual reality (VR) headsets for patients to use during their time in palliative care. The goal is to allow people to experience activities, destinations, and even family events as though they were actually there.
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Summary

As things continue to advance in AR and VR for healthcare we will continue to update this article. We realize that this is just a starting point and doesn’t even begin to cover all of the new applications that are being tested or have been recently released.

Our goal is to capture a diverse look at the industry and look at new ways to leverage AR and VR technology in the healthcare sector. The pandemic appears to have sped up the development of ar and vr in healthcare and we think it can transform the sector in extraordinary ways.


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