Augmented Reality & The Medical Field

Moving beyond its gaming and entertainment roots, augmented reality, or AR is gaining speed and traction in the medical world.

AR essentially allows humans to “see under the skin” without making one incision! This technology blends computer generated images from MRI and CT scans with real-world views allowing for medical staff to know exactly what is where from bone placement, critical arteries, connective tissues, internal organs and more.

AR will transform the medical field by improving precision during operations, reduce medical errors, offer better doctor/patient understanding as well as enhance training for medical students.

Surgery

Almost every surgery requires some sort of scan on the patient before making an incision. The wide use of imaging, tiny cameras and real-time data streaming has thus far aided surgeons’ performances and boosted the technological aspect of medicine in 2D imaging displays. The down-side is that the doctor must look away from the patient on the operating table in order to obtain the necessary information needed to continue operating. A juggling act.

AR elevates the tech world and offers a real-time 3D imaging overlay right on top of the patient so that doctors need not to look away at a screen when performing surgery but rather keep both eyes and complete focus on the task at hand. This offers instant information as well as the ability to offer doctors enhanced accuracy during procedures.

The technology is already being used with Microsoft’s HoloLens AR glasses all over the world for patients during many forms of surgery. It allows doctors to see bones, vessels and much more while operating, ultimately aiding in identifying exactly where the targets are located for precise cutting, reconstruction and repair.

Ultrasounds & Imaging Technology

Currently ultrasounds, endoscopies and bronchoscopies, to name a few, all require hospitals to purchase entire systems, each with its own display screen. AR, if implemented in such a fashion can provide a shared display of merged information, eventually reducing the need for a dedicated monitor for each aspect of the patients’ data.

This advancement hasn’t yet been put in place but it is in the near future. Implementing a similar system could cut down clunky costs and integrate appropriate information all in one place for ease of all the medical staff.

In regards to displaying imaging technology, as mentioned above, in operating rooms, AR has been integrated, offering internal scans as a 3D overlay directly on top of the patient.

Training

AR has already had a profound impact on medical training. Simulating patient encounters really defines the necessity of AR in medical training.

All mistakes, trials and errors would occur in AR rather than on actual patients. The amazing opportunity AR can offer is the fact that every type of training and instance can be systematically incorporated and learned with the use of this technology so that doctors have literally practiced for nearly everything in their field rather than just relying on the luck of the draw through by chance encounters or text book information.

Improving Patient & Doctor Relationships

Telecommunicating may begin to be enhanced and improved. Stuffy doctor’s offices’ waiting rooms may be able to slowly see some reprieve with the use of AR patient/doctor encounters.

This would entail the patient (provided the condition applies) not needing to leave their home but still have an appointment. The use of visual overlays and smart devices could allow for a complete examination and executed plan of action for certain patients.

The future of AR may include electronic medical records (EMR) that are automatically displayed on a device as a doctor examines a patient. This would highlight any allergies, crucial notes and applicable information pop-ups so that doctors can offer a more accurate and informative appointment.

Already beginning to be incorporated, augmented reality presents itself as a historic opportunity to transform medicine and patient care. It will take the medical field to untapped lifesaving places of precision, acuteness and efficiency.

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