How AR is Revolutionizing the Telemedicine Industry
In this ever-evolving world of technology, on-demand telemedicine solutions have become a necessity. Acting as a service provider for those who are unable to get on-site medical treatments, such platforms can reach patients across the globe. Especially now, since we are amid an on-going global pandemic, the need for digitized healthcare processes has become critical. Therefore, technologies like Augmented Reality in healthcare are gaining significant popularity within the IT industry. Hospitals are being encouraged to initiate specialized telemedicine programs to train their staff so that the shift towards this new technology is swift.
The following blog will highlight questions like what are the Augmented Reality healthcare applications? What are its benefits? Some challenges we might face along the way and what does it have in store for us in the future? We shall address these questions one at a time to understand the role of AR in revolutionizing the field of telemedicine.
Augmented reality and telemedicine coming together
According to a survey in 2014, it was reported that the authorities did not expect organizations to be using telemedicine solutions until 2017, however, the results stated otherwise. More than three-quarters of the companies using Augmented Reality in healthcare were noted and around 53% were also looking to further expand in the field. These numbers show that there has been significant growth in this field.
In the consumer-driven digital era of today, approaches like Augmented Reality in healthcare are expeditiously expanding to provide enhanced treatment plans for patients. Given below are some of the real-world applications of how AR is revolutionizing the telemedicine industry:
- Hospitals using AR applications
- Remote medical training using HoloLens
- Guiding military personnel
- Guiding an unskilled person
At a Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, UK, an AR application was launched. Children were asked to select an avatar while visiting different parts of the hospital. These animations helped in educating and entertaining them which made them feel less anxious within the hospital premises.
AR is being used to provide medical training with the help of Microsoft HoloLens in remote areas. 12 medical trainees were enabled to perform a complex procedure like Point of Care Ultrasound (PoCUS) without using a visual interface. The mentor’s actions were captured using the leap motion and then displayed in the AR space of the HoloLens.
A telemedicine AR system called System for Telemonitoring with Augmented Reality (STAR) was executed using real-time simulations by a team of researchers from Purdue and Indiana Universities. A camera headset was worn by the person performing the procedure and the captured imagery was then sent to a doctor at a remote location in real-time. The doctor then interpreted the image using a touchscreen tablet and the person performing got the precise perception of what had to be done. Such systems would do wonders in highly stressful situations where military surgeons could be guided through complex emergency procedures.
AR is also being used to check if an unskilled person can use medical equipment to perform ECG by correctly placing electrodes on a patient’s chest. The ARToolKit used video tracking libraries and placed electrodes according to the orientation of the camera in real-time. The AR engine then performed some steps by finding markers in the captured frame. For faster processing, the captured colored image was converted into a binary image. Based on the orientation of the resulting binary image, instructions were given to the performer regarding the correct placement of markers using pre-recorded information.
Also Read: On-Demand Healthcare is on the Rise
AR and its Benefits
Augmented Reality in healthcare will change healthcare dynamics when people will realize how convenient this tech is. With increasing developments happening, AR will be able to achieve milestones that may seem like a dream now but will completely change the health industry in the coming years.
There are numerous benefits of using Augmented Reality for healthcare like:
- It aids doctors with state-of-the-art tech devices.
- It develops a stronger grasp on human anatomy thus assisting the physician in visualizing procedural operations with improved accuracy.
- Broadens the universal collaboration between doctors.
- Improves students’ education by providing better medical training.
- Helps patients understand how operational procedures work.
Like every other technology, AR in healthcare market comes with its set of limitations. While working on a stationary human body, things are quite simple, complications arise when we try to augment a living human body which is continuously in motion. Even if some parts are deemed unvarying, the difference in organ sizes between adults and children will cause difficulties. People also differ from each other physically like some people are obese while others are skinny.
To resolve these differences an instruction list can be maintained while using the application, taking into account such variations. If, for example, the person is hairy then the operator must remind the user to shave the skin or clip small patches of hair for proper placement of electrodes.
Overcoming such physical differences through Augmented Reality might be challenging. The final application should take into account such special situations by introducing a customized set of operations that will apply to everyone irrespective of any physical differences.
Looking Into the Future
Keeping in mind the fascinating advances being made in this field it is not surprising that in near future, we can expect a substantial increase in AR devices entering the market. Medical fields will be among the first ones to encompass this new technology in a big way due to the ease it will provide for them.
Below we shall underline some prospects of MedTech:
- CableLabs is amongst the leading research-based organizations with the motto ‘The Near Future-A Better Place’ aiming to alter the lives of people who are dependent on the healthcare industry.
- Another startup with the name ‘Brain Power’ is working to help cure mental illnesses and diseases like autism. This application will look for signs of depression using facial expressions in real-time.
- In the future, we will to some extent, also see people becoming their very own doctors. This may sound far-fetched for now but with the help of these advancements, medical facilities are becoming more efficient. This means that people will themselves be able to treat minor illnesses while at home. A startup with the name ‘CliniCloud’ introduced its first stethoscope that can be used in homes. In this way, people will not always have to seek special medical attention in non-emergency situations.
During calamities where people are suffering from a pandemic, such immersive technologies are the solutions to all our problems. They will not only help sustain businesses during a prevalent health crisis but also during the post-crisis era.
We are, right now, at the cusp of practical applications revolving around Augmented Reality. In decades to come, we will see an exponential increase by integrating these services into the technologies. So, now is the right time to leave your competitors behind by integrating AR into your systems because technology is the future of the healthcare industry and the sooner we get accustomed to these changes, the brighter our future will be.
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