The effectiveness of health care systems is highly dependent on the use of advanced, cutting-edge solutions. With increased public interest, involvement, and funding, the health care industry has become more and more open to new technologies. The use of Augmented Reality (AR) & Virtual Reality (VR) in healthcare seems to be a natural fit. These technologies offer viable solutions to many of the challenges facing health care systems, including numerous diverse opportunities for implementation in areas such as general diagnostics and medical training.
What Are Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/VR)?
Augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) are immersive technologies that enable users to experience digitally rendered content in both physical and virtual space. In augmented reality, this content is overlaid onto a user’s physical surroundings using a head-mounted display (HMD), heads-up display (HUD), or mobile device (see below). In virtual reality, HMDs fully immerse users in a virtual space in which they can interact with digital content and users. Gaming and entertainment are the most visible uses for AR/VR, but these technologies also offer a wide range of potential uses for businesses, governments, and consumers.
AR/VR and the Healthcare Industry
Globally, AR and VR revenue in the healthcare market is projected to grow from US$1.2 billion in 2021 to US$11.6 billion in 2028; a CAGR of 38.3%. Some of the fundamental factors expected to boost the growth of augmented and virtual reality in the healthcare market include technological advancements and digitalization in healthcare, favorable government initiatives, rising healthcare expenditure, growing usage in surgical procedures and medical training.
Patient care management applications will lead the market for augmented reality and virtual reality in healthcare. The use of AR and VR in therapies and rehabilitation is increasing in the healthcare market. Rehabilitation applications will include their use in physical therapy, and for the care of brain injuries, stroke, and other conditions.
AR and VR techniques are being increasingly adopted for use in surgeries and diagnostics. Systems such as touch surgery use virtual reality to provide a view of the patient’s anatomy and physiology, thereby providing opportunities for surgeons in the operating room. This, in turn, is expected to expand the growth of the market for augmented reality and virtual reality in healthcare. The growing adoption of AR and VR technologies in medical surgeries to optimize surgical procedures and increase the efficiency of treatment has been one of the key factors driving market growth over the past few years.
Other major factors that drive virtual reality in the global healthcare market include a rise in incidences of neurological disorders, an increase in demand for innovative diagnostic techniques, and growth in awareness regarding the benefits of virtual reality technologies. Moreover, recent advancements in the field of information technology such as advanced computers, laptops, internet connectivity, and mobile applications has further fueled the market growth.
How Can AR/VR Help the Healthcare System to Handle Challenges?
Both AR and VR technologies offer assistances in the medical and healthcare fields. Let’s define how they differ.
Augmented reality (AR) is the technology that allow a smart device to display information, videos, and graphics over the real world. This technology allows the user to augments the real world by viewing additional data as incorporated into the real world. Some popular examples of AR are the IKEA Place app, L’Oréal Makeup app, Pokémon Go, and others.
Virtual reality (VR) is a simulated reality created by computer technology where a person completely immerses into a digital environment. The most widespread examples of VR are VR chats, Volvo test drive reality, The North Face for hiking experience in Yosemite National Park, and an immense number of VR games.
Healthcare companies use AR and VR technologies to improve their customer experiences by effectively engaging them in healthcare activities. Doctors and healthcare specialists also benefit from VR and AR technologies by using them in operating rooms and classrooms. AR and VR technologies have a fast-growing market and are quickly gaining popularity in medicine and healthcare. Although both technologies are in their early stages of adoption in healthcare, they are already able to provide high-quality assistance to doctors and medical specialists in patient treatment and to educate healthcare consumers on how to better care for their health.
Here are some examples of how AR and VR are used in medicine and healthcare:
- medical training – medical students, doctors, or surgeons can learn how to treat their patients better or perform complex operations without the risk of making any surgery mistakes;
- robotic surgery – when robotic devices perform high precision operations controlled by a human surgeon with VR technology;
- physical therapy – VR helps patients to easier overcome high pain levels and ensure faster recovery when performing physical therapy;
- post-traumatic stress treatment – when a person is placed into the environment with a traumatic situation and he or she tries to find the solution and overcome the crisis situation;
- anxiety, phobia, and depression treatment – patients can use VR for meditations or relaxation in safe environments provided by VR;
- emergency treatment – with AR maps layered over reality, people can find medical centers, pharmacies, and other healthcare facilities;
- personalized approach to patients – VR and AR can help doctors better explain to their patients how their operations will be performed or which steps a patient should take for more effective recovery.