Augmented reality (AR) is one of the hottest trends in technology today. Its popularity is equally reflected in projections, as the market is expected to be worth more than $160 billion by 2020, up from just $4 billion in 2016. But its use is not limited to simply chasing Pokémon and other games. With a growing number of applications across a range of industries, the technology is increasingly being adopted within the healthcare sector, where analysts predict its value will reach around $5 billion by 2025.
A number of healthcare providers and medical device manufacturers have already begun to realize AR’s potential for improving their efficiency and effectiveness. A handheld AR device developed by US-based AccuVein, for example, enables clinicians to quickly and easily locate veins for injections – scanning and projecting a virtual image of a patient’s veins on their skin. And in the UK, surgeons at London’s Imperial College Healthcare Trust use Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset to create an accurate, real-time, virtual 3-D map of a patient’s blood vessels, muscles and bones before making a single incision.
Its impact isn’t only being felt by healthcare providers. In pharmaceuticals, for example, there are AR apps available which can give patients access to information such as dosage instructions and possible side effects. Those patients simply scan a particular prescription and the application recognizes the medication. Furthermore, solutions such as Ghostman are aiding patients with physical rehabilitation therapy following serious injury, and scientists are even exploring how the technology can be used to treat psychiatric and neurological conditions.
Given the benefits it offers both healthcare providers and their patients, AR’s growing popularity within the sector is not surprising. As with any new technology, though, implementing AR is not without its challenges.
Obstacles to overcome
While there may be a great deal of hype around future applications, it’s worth remembering that AR is still a relatively nascent space. There is currently little in the way of an ecosystem around the technology, as well as a lack of interoperability — both obstacles of implementation.
As it stands, developers are required to either build AR applications for one single platform or find ways of creating content for different platforms. Since each of these options has its own specific requirements, most AR apps today tend to be stand-alone projects. This situation is likely to be resolved over time with the implementation of common standards which will enable the creation of common frameworks, speeding up the overall development and deployment process. Once these standards are in place, it’s likely that AR will become more widely adopted within the healthcare sector.
Perception is also crucial — the future of AR depends on how it is perceived by end users. If AR is to be widely adopted, it’s important that developers ensure they put user experience at the heart of every project. As a burgeoning technology, AR is still something of an unknown quantity, so it is vital that sufficient time be given to ensure success. To do this, factors like loading and rendering three-dimensional objects, taking into account the real-world environment and conditions, and to carrying out extensive load testing will be required prior to release. Lag, or a lack of response in an AR application, might be frustrating when you’re trying to catch a Pokémon – but when we talk about care delivery, the consequences will be considerably more dire.
By Brooke Faulkner, freelance writer; @faulknercreek.
Being rushed to the hospital is a traumatic event in a child’s life, yet a staggering 25.5 million children are taken to the emergency room each year. The reasons for these ER trips range from poisonings and infections to mental health conditions and diabetes, plus a host of terrifying injuries and baffling disorders. In addition to emergencies, there are children who make frequent visits to hospitals or stay there for weeks on end to receive ongoing treatment for chronic conditions.
Children today are much more tech-savvy than in the past — they’re getting smartphones before their age hits double digits. Many hospital administrators take tech trends into consideration in order to make the overall experience better for patients and their families. Even the processes and workflows that hospital staff follow now stress the patients’ experience. Technology is also helping doctors and surgeons perform their jobs more efficiently and safely while offering quality healthcare to more families than before.
Faster care for injuries
The last thing you expect when heading to a birthday party is leaving with your child in an ambulance. Bounce houses and similar structures are responsible for a number of injuries, and they have been for a long time. Injuries can happen at any time, and hospital staff needs to be prepared to handle them to ensure optimal health outcomes.
In more dire circumstances, faster care is necessary to save the lives of those injured. In the wake of natural disasters, as local leaders scramble to help their respective communities find stability, faster healthcare processes are required to protect the lives of those affected.
Some hospitals are using technology that tells patients the wait times at nearby emergency rooms. This can help parents decide where to take their child for the fastest attention possible. If there’s no hospital that can treat an injury at the moment, the parent can opt to visit their primary doctor or another emergency clinic.
By Amy Sklar, SVP of advanced manufacturing communities, UBM.
As reported by Rock Health’s Midyear Funding Review, 2018 got off to a roaring start with $3.4 billion for digital health funding in the first six months of the year. All indicators point to continued momentum in 2019, as startups and veteran companies alike work to unlock the potential of digital health technology to increase efficiencies in healthcare delivery and improve patient outcomes.
In the coming year we will see innovations including smart, connected products offering opportunities for new functionality, consumer engagement, and higher product utilization. The industry will additionally see startups enter the space leveraging new capabilities for data collection and analytics to better apply insights to make medicine more precise. To learn more, a panel of experts will expand on this topic, speaking to the evolving nature of digital health at MD&M West Anaheim 2019.
While nanotechnology isn’t anything new, we will see continued interest in developing the space with an anticipated move toward more catheter-based and minimally invasive procedures. Medical devices are getting smaller with the demand for technology-driven advancements, and rapid developments are being made in design options to enable drug delivery. In particular, breakthroughs in new drugs and biologics are increasingly seeking localized delivery for better therapeutic effects.
Medical robotics has an exciting future. At the Medical Design and Manufacturing (MD&M) 2019 conference in Anaheim, we are seeing a significant increase in companies impacting the surgical robotics field. A few key players include Intuitive Surgical, TransEnterix, Medrobotics, Medtronic with its acquisition of Mazor Robotics and Neural Analytics. Robotic-assisted surgery has the potential to improve patient care and vastly increase the efficiency and accuracy of healthcare teams. We are entering a world where surgical robots are more than just a robotic arm. It consists of intraoperative-imaging, surgical navigation, 3D imaging, pre-surgical planning software, among others, that all mesh seamlessly into the surgeon’s workflow to enable improved outcomes.
Augmented reality and virtual reality: Changing the face of healthcare
One of the most exciting areas of development in the medical technology arena is augmented and virtual reality. While augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have a variety of benefits, we will see these technologies expanding access to healthcare in 2019. Telemedicine is still in its infancy, but with population health on the forefront of medical technology conversations, 2019 will see major strides in advancing virtual care to support the two thirds of the world’s population that doesn’t have access to safe or affordable surgery.