The role that digital transformation has played in recent years—disrupting business flow and treatment models in healthcare—has made a major impression throughout the sector. The industry has long been dominated by records keeping requirements that have often limited the quality of care. However, a paperless system and data–driven decision–making have revolutionized it in a short time. Thanks to improvements in security protocols and management processes, HIPAA requirements are now readily incorporated into digital transformations. Bringing all these developments together with Augmented Reality (AR) systems is now pushing the revolution directly to the point of service, supplying actual information for diagnosis and treatment.

A report from Deloitte Research notes that AR is the technology with the greatest disruptive potential in healthcare. The expectation is that AR will lead to a major transformation of the sector’s business and service models.

INFORMATION, DOCUMENTATION, AND DIAGNOSIS

The arrival of mobile technologies is already quickly advancing the role that computerized medical records are playing. It’s easy to see how AR glasses can provide the same information in an even more intuitive interface. By freeing up the hands of first responders, these systems will make it easier to address medical emergencies. Gesture technologies, such as those pioneered by AHEER, are aimed at supplying critical information to responders before patients are wheeled into the ER.

The diagnostic and preventative potential is immense. One example is EyeDecide, a medical app that uses a camera to demonstrate to patients what the effects of conditions like cataracts, diabetes and high blood pressed are like. This offers the opportunity for doctors to impress upon individuals the importance of making new lifestyle choices and following regimens.

One more case involves a smartphone app that is used to take photos of wounds, which are received by doctors, who in turn can make fast diagnoses for immediate care.

ARASSISTED SURGERY

Providing detailed imagery while a surgeon is working can be especially helpful. In 2013, Dr. Rafael Grossman performed the first AR–assisted surgery utilizing Google Glass. The system allowed him to see both interior and exterior views while conducting an abdominal procedure. Similar options are now available for surgeons who need to be attentive to the danger of damaging vital nerve connections during spinal surgeries. AR models can also be employed in planning surgeries and offering guides during procedures.

One technology that is gathering a lot of attention is Microsoft HoloLens, a platform designed for planning and execution of surgeries. In Norway, a technique was developed to create a 3D rendering of a surgical area, allowing doctors to rehearse procedures and establish what approaches would require the fewest steps to achieve a specific goal. This ultimately allows surgeons to try to avoid wasted motion, reduce surgery times and prevent possible tissue damage.

AUGMENTED CARDIOLOGY

Preventing, detecting and treating heart diseases all pose unique challenges, but AR models can serve as aids to understanding and development of specific surgical procedures. SentiAR, for example, built software that combines information from MRIs, catheter feeds, and Computer Tomography scans to project a 3D model of a living heart. With an AR headset, the surgeon can interact with a projected hologram in order to perform a procedure. A common view can be projected so several doctors can all see the same images during a surgery. The model can be turned and manipulated, and the system also works with gestures.

Developed in the Netherlands, AED4EU is a system meant for emergency work. It provides a map of all nearby defibrillator machine locations, and users can add places as events unfold. With a browser enabled for use by phone, it allows personnel to quickly track down defibrillators during the most important moments of emergencies. Each week, an average of 300 people is reported to have a cardiac arrest being out of the hospital. If chest compressions are started and an automated external defibrillator is used within 6 minutes, chances for survival increase greatly. Now, AED4EU has become a part of the Dutch Red Cross.

AR AND DENTISTRY

In Germany, a company named iDent has developed a technology for smart glasses that allows dentists to see models projected during procedures that they could only once access by a computer monitor. In real time, a dentist can see where existing fillings, crowns and implants are. They also can identify where target areas are, speeding up procedures and reducing mistakes.

BASIC MEDICAL PROCEDURES AND AR

Almost anyone who has ever had an IV line put in or blood taken is familiar with the difficulty of hitting the mark. ACCUVEIN has developed an AR technology for the job. Using a scanner, it can locate patient’s veins and project an image of the underlying structure on the skin. This method has been reported to deliver a 350–percent improvement in first–stick rates, permit medicine and anesthesia to be delivered more rapidly.

EDUCATIONAL POTENTIAL OF AR

Augmented reality systems offer huge possibilities in the field of medical education. Learners can utilize HoloAnatomy, a system built on top of the HoloLens technology, to access models of human anatomy. This approach allows students to take views from all angles, allowing them to get a better sense of what organs look and act like.

Another system that is attracting a lot of attention is ARnatomy, a digitized version of the core medical education component known as Anatomy. Using OCR technologies, the latest versions can bring up information tied to almost all known parts of the human anatomy. AR markers can be displayed on skeletal models, and users can even manipulate them. Through visual learning and interaction, students often achieve better results than through memorization of medical terminology and pictures.

CONCLUSION

Healthcare AR is a technology with plenty of promise, yet it is still in its infancy. While advancements in the field are arriving regularly—particularly at such events as the recent HIMSS18—considerable development is waiting in the wings. Healthcare service providers continue to have concerns about security issues, and questions have arisen about the diversity of available hardware. With the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation in the European Union in May 2018, software compliance will also become more stringent.

Healthcare providers are at the point, though, where exploring specific business cases is important. They also should take a close look at what medical problems may be easier to address using AR systems. With a focus on what can be done today, healthcare industry professionals can begin figuring out how Augmented Reality should fit into their environments.