A Whole New World: Discussing AR/VR Technology in Healthcare

Healthcare is very physical in nature — doctors need to examine patients, patients go to labs for test results, and the human body is always involved. Perhaps the healthcare system we know today can be transformed into truly virtual care.

A Whole New World

AR/VR technology is used for patient engagement, psychological relief and treatment to improve physical conditions, body mapping, and data visualization. AR/VR technology combined with RPM creates completely virtual care, where the physician can examine the patient remotely while still capable of viewing the patient’s movement and progress.

For example, AR/VR enhances clinician engagement by enabling better flow of conversation and collaboration. A physician from a rural medical facility will be able to confer with another physician located in a metropolitan hospital without misunderstandings. By providing more training on collaboration for doctors — both in rural and urban settings — AR/VR technology helps to avoid miscommunication between patients and physicians as much as possible.

Driving Forces

XVision by Augmedics is the first AR navigation technology to be used in surgery. Known as “x-ray vision”, the XVision system allows surgeons to view the patients’ anatomy through the skin and tissue and navigate instruments and implants, specifically spinal, more accurately during surgery. A surgery relies on a large team that must communicate and listen to complete the operation successfully. While XVision’s real-time surgical tracking system creates truly virtual care, it also enhances the physicians’ performance in the OR as their skills are leveraged with the platform’s trustworthy and accurate AR/VR technology.

MindMaze developed a platform designed to help those disabled neurologically, mainly stroke victims, recover by retraining their brain using virtual reality, computer graphics, and brain imaging. Their FDA and CE approved digital therapeutics allow patients to interact with engaging content designed to holistically train and assess motor and cognitive function. By approaching neurohabilitation with experience-dependent plasticity, Mindmaze engages their users in getting better on a completely virtual level.

Photo by UNIBOA on Unsplash

Ikea released the Ikea Place app that permits customers to virtually place pieces of furniture inside their homes to provide a clearer idea of how the furniture will look. Furniture shopping involves plenty of collaboration with household members to make the best possible home. By seeing options virtually households can make clear choices about their living spaces. Healthcare can have similar effects when introducing AR/VR: physicians can reduce miscommunication with their colleagues, and will step towards a truly virtual care by examining their patients without any physical contact.

In partnership with Israeli AR company Zeekit, ASOS launched See My Fit, an inclusive AR program that allows customers to virtually try over 800 different outfits. After the customer’s selection, the app digitally maps the product according to the model and the customer’s measurements. See My Fit eliminates any reason for an in-person shopping experience, as the AR platform enables customers to make an even better choice without any physical trying on the clothing. AR/VR works the same way in healthcare — patients in the future will increasingly be able to be treated without physical contact with their physicians.

“Together with Asos, we have a shared mission to make online fashion as personalised and easy-to-use as possible for customers. With our patented, artificial intelligence-based AR technology powering See My Fit, we can connect the dots between what you see when shopping and what you receive at home, giving customers more confidence in purchasing the products they love.” ~Yael Vizel, Zeekit Chief Executive

Applying Design

Opportunities

  • Positive Effect from Precision: Medical training can become more precise and accessible when using AR/VR technology. Service design and interface design will be critical for designing such training programs.
  • Education for all: Rather than relying on anatomical models, patients can become better educated about their bodies and upcoming surgeries with AR/VR technology.

Dangers

  • AR/VR Hype: AR/VR technology is an exciting innovative tool that can help augment the healthcare system, yet it is relatively new idea that is still finding its footing in being a consistent asset
  • Many factors for success: Need plenty of money, resources, and trust from investors to produce, manufacture, and deliver these AR/VR technologies
  • Assets of healthcare institutions: The same level of money, resources, and trust is necessary from physicians and healthcare administrators, which might be only possible for well-designed and well-funded facilities to attain

Opportunities

  • Changing medical training: Both current and future surgeons will cultivate their skills through AR/VR platforms. Designers will play a key role in creating AR/VR interfaces for this context.
  • Informed and engaged patients: Designers will enable patients to become more informed and knowledgeable about their upcoming surgeries with a visual representation that AR/VR offers.
  • Encouraging easy collaboration: Communication and consultations — both in-person and virtual — between medical teams will also improve with effective AR/VR technology, making their interactions more seamless. A mix of design strategy and interface design will be crucial to success.

Dangers

  • Mistrust and skepticism: Poorly designed models can stimulate skepticism and mistrust from physicians and surgeons in regards to the technology’s precision and efficiency
  • Lack of sustainability: Designers must create AR/VR technology that lasts for the long-run, from longer battery power for 10+ hour surgeries to general durability and reliability
  • Financial loss: The cost of supplying AR/VR technology into clinical settings is much greater than its benefits of reducing health costs if companies do not maintain trust in their product and plan an effective and cost-efficient business model

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