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Use of Immersive Technology in Healthcare

While some of the hospitals are not even equipped to handle these technological advances, many of them are choosing to invest in the same.

Immersive Technology in Healthcare - TNQ InGage

Introduction

Yes, it’s true! By 2025, the world is going to see a dramatic change in the workplace and workforce. Immersive Technology is set to play a marquee role here. It’s going to change the way people train, learn and work. This innovative technology provides solutions in the form of Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR). All of which are designed to mimic reality with varied functional capabilities; Augmented Reality depicts virtual objects by keeping the users in physical realms, Virtual Reality immerses them into an artificially created realistic interactive environment, and Mixed Reality combines both of these to provide state-of-the-art experiences. Now, let’s dive in and understand how this technology could contribute to the healthcare sector.

Where Challenge Lies

Here’s a brief on the current challenges faced by the Health sector:

· Prevention isn’t Just Better, it’s Crucial

Statistics suggest that the Medical Industry accounts for at least 14 adverse events for every 100 hospitalizations. These errors may occur in surgical procedures, diagnosis, prescription of treatments/medicines, etc. To err is human but losing lives due to avoidable errors is a dent to the life-saving medical industry.

· Medical Information Explosion

The healthcare literature is ever-expanding, which prompts for continuous (and rigorous) education. Experts say that a General Practitioner must devote 21 hours a day to keep up with the latest trends. Achieving this in the current healthcare climate, which poses enormous demands, is downright impossible (nor can traditional training make up for this). This leads to a scenario where we have doctors who may be efficient but not educated enough to create success stories.

· Access to Technology

Access to technology is a prerequisite for all things concerning development. Referring to statistics, 23% of healthcare professionals complain that they have insufficient access to technology, and a few more feel they have no access to essential technical training. This hinders the performance of efficient operations.

· Training Methodology

The medical industry isn’t devoid of efficient and determined personnel. It is essential that these valued resources are provided with sound training to meet the demands of the sector. To achieve this, the medical training of today needs to be renewed in accordance with the modern-day advancements and standards.

· Availability of Personnel

Hospitals are finding it increasingly difficult to manage the intense workflow, which includes emergencies. The lack of available personnel for medical scenarios is among the most critical issues that need solving.

How AR VR is going to help?

1. Augmented Surgery

Technically speaking, AR as a surgical tool does what it is designed to do - it superimposes a computer-generated image on a surgeon’s view of the operative field, which provides the surgeon with a composite view of the patient, enhancing the operative experience.

That’s just a highlighted benefit, let’s understand what else it could bring to the surgical sphere:

· To start with, it can be used for surgical training, surgical preparation, and the very surgical process.

· AR is capacitated to provide imaging data and other patient information that could save lives and decrease medical errors.

· AR images can better portray major vessels, nerves, etc; onto a patient during the surgical process. This increases the safety of the operation and reduces the processing time.

· Multiple CT images and data displays do not depict vital cues concerning the status of the patient. A single AR visual display integrates all images and patient data, allowing doctors to monitor the condition of the patients better.

· The effectiveness of this technology is so convincing and proven, that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recently approved the OpenSight Augmented Reality System. The medical solution, embedded with a teaching version, is the first to be officially released for pre-operative surgical planning.

· Equipment forms the basis of any surgical process, the likes of which includes OT (Operation Theatre) screens. AR could replace and help cut down such medical equipment, thereby leading to cost-savings.

2. VR for Healthcare Training

Sound healthcare practices and behaviour stem from effective training methods. The impact of general training and awareness campaigns could wear off in due course of time. VR training, in contrast, has a lasting impact on people’s behaviour and retention; in fact, statistics portray that VR training has resulted in 80% of retention after a year of training, while traditional training showed a rate of 20% after a week of training.

Virtual Mistakes

The training method allows prospective experts to make mistakes virtually so that they could understand the consequences of the wrong methodology or incorrect behaviour before facing a critical patient. It is cost-efficient, as it can reduce the cost of healthcare training, which may otherwise be incurred through travel costs, operational costs of physical training facilities, and the usage of equipment. Moreover, it allows the repeated training of personnel with/without incurring marginal extra costs.

Virtual Reality comes with the added provision of recording and using actions for reviewing, debriefing, and reporting, thereby providing new opportunities for healthcare training data analytics and insights.

Coordination

Like in almost all sectors, the medical sector demands coordination with other team members, in terms of medical emergency responses, the conduct of surgery with a team, etc. Such coordination is pivotal to patient diagnosis, intervention, and recovery. VR training allows medical professionals to train together and practice shared decision-making.

Artificial, yet Realistic

Virtual Reality is an epitome of all things realistic, through a depiction that is entirely artificial. To state it precisely, it can transport the users to the human body and portray how a patient would typically react to scenarios. VR rather showcases minute details of the body parts and replicates common surgical procedures with accuracy (note that word). Haptics, which is very much a part of Virtual Reality, even goes to the extent of providing these users with a sense of touch, while operating definitely artificial machines. And while cadavers and plastic dummies were previously used for simulations, it begs the question as to how effective it has been.

3. Rehabilitation

VR-based rehabilitation is designed with the capability of improving motor skills and effecting muscle recovery in a safe and efficient manner. Studies provide that stroke patients who were administered VR-based rehab training made a marked improvement in arm and hand movement after just four weeks of therapy. Patients suffering from cerebral palsy also responded in a similar way.

It is said that for every two seconds, someone suffers a stroke, most of whom need long-term rehabilitation. Current methods of rehabilitation are either way too expensive or do not cater to full-fledged healing. On the other hand, the new wave of rehabilitation (VR Mode), as experts say, is found to be highly impactful for stroke patients, given that it enables them to practice essential routine activities, create new brain connections, and bolster their confidence.

Future Trends and Challenges

Given the mammoth potential it has in making a difference to the world of healthcare, the future of Immersive Technologies looks promising. This is the first-of-a-kind technology that could manipulate and grab the viewer’s attention with a touch of realism, especially in an era where short attention and retention spans rule the roost. With benefits come challenges though, which primarily is to leverage the technology’s potential and make contents that are compelling. Notwithstanding that, It is safe to assume that the adoption of the technology is not only a step in the right direction but a necessity.

Healthcare facilities from across the globe are now utilizing immersive applications such as vein visualization, surgical visualization, etc. Development-driven healthcare professionals are researching areas that could potentially benefit both customers and businesses. While some of the hospitals are not even equipped to handle these technological advances, many of them (including third party companies) are choosing to invest in the same. A widespread growth is being projected as the technology is cost-efficient than ever before.



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