Thursday, June 4, 2020
Healthcare/MedicineAugmented RealityGuest PostImmersive TechnologyVirtual Reality

How Immersive Technology Is Advancing Healthcare

Immersive technology has already aided a lot of fields in the healthcare industry and it has more to give.

 

As immersive technology has become more advanced with time, it has had an increasing role in medicine. Virtual and augmented reality technology have both been responsible for particular advancements in the healthcare industry, and not just in medicine. Immersive technology has had an impact in mental healthcare and aged care as well as traditional fields of medicine.

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Immersive technology appears to be only at the beginning of its role in healthcare and has a lot of growing to do. According to Reports and Data, the virtual reality in the healthcare industry is expected to reach US$6.91B by 2026. This is quite a leap considering the industry’s market size of US$1.78B in 2018.

In this article, we will explore some ways that immersive technology has had an effect on the healthcare industry and how it could develop in the future. Let’s get to it.

Training Students of Medicine

As inconvenient as it is, no doctor became a doctor without a substantial amount of studying and training. This includes many hours shadowing qualified doctors, watching them work their magic. And honestly, I am glad that a doctor needs to do plenty of training. To conduct something as delicate as surgery, every hour of training is a comfort.

This is where immersive technology is really having its moment to shine. A first-time surgeon rarely has many opportunities to practice their craft before the real deal. This is clearly because no one is going to put their hand up to be the guinea pig. And they shouldn’t have to.

A company in America called Osso VR is a key developer in this area. With advanced training technology, Osso VR has made large steps in improving the quality of training for medical students. The technology allows for students to perform highly complex surgeries with VR technology that can then be assessed and graded.

Osso VR Training Simulation
Osso VR Training Simulation; Source: Osso VR

Identifying Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Immersive technology is playing just as large a role in advancing other areas of the healthcare industry apart from surgery. In studies performed at Cambridge University, virtual reality was found to be an accurate way to determine early signs of Alzheimer’s. This testing being more accurate than current gold standard testing.

The researchers suggested that patients with early Alzheimer’s would be identifiable by their results of doing an exercise in VR that requires a special area of the brain to complete. The study used 45 people with 12 testing positive.

This technology represents the important role that virtual reality can play in identifying and working with people with Alzheimer’s disease. Virtual reality is also playing a role in working with seniors with memory diseases. This shows how well VR can impact on both sides of Alzheimer’s and other memory-related diseases.

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The Future

Immersive technology in the healthcare industry is only going to grow for years to come and it has already had a massive impact.  There is, however, always room for further advancements and it is exciting to think of where the technology could take us further.

Enhancing Surgery Procedure

The use of augmented reality in the healthcare industry as a means of easily accessing information will lead the charge in the use of the tech. An illustration by Brian G. Payne (below) is the perfect representation of how effectively augmented reality can influence the future of surgery. Through this technology, a doctor could access information in real time without needing to take his focus from the patient. And with an increase in medical imaging technology that is well on track, real-time information specific to each surgery is not beyond reach.

The Augmentarium at the University of Maryland - illustration by Brian G. Payne
Visualization tools being developed by UMD researchers could be used in the operating room, where digital images could be superimposed on patients to provide surgeons with real-time data on organ structure and function. Illustration by Brian G. Payne. ; Source: The Augmentarium at the University of Maryland

Consulting Your Doctor

Virtual reality technology will also likely be used by doctors for consultations. The technology will allow doctors to increase their reach to isolated communities and allow patients greater access to a wider range of doctors and experts without the need for expensive travel costs.

The concept of using virtual reality for doctor’s visits, however, does have its fair share of limitations. Typically, a doctor’s trip involves some form of visual inspection especially if you have a skin condition. Depending on your resources, this would not have to be a limitation considering how clear cameras have become. For poorer communities, this could be a restriction.

The technology could also be used for having virtual meetings with a group of experts regarding results from testing, or simply to have a direct conversation with your doctors regarding minor bloodwork. These virtual meetings will require very little coordination and will be very effective.

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Immersive technology is going to play a large role in the future of healthcare, there is no denying this. With frequent advancements in medical technology as a whole, there will be more opportunities for further advancement every day. While there are still limitations with this tech, advancements in both the virtual and medical industries separately will inevitably lead to more opportunities for further meshing of these two growing industries.

Guest Post

About the Guest Author(s)

Joshua Cox
Joshua Cox
Founder/Writer/Editor |

Josh is a mechanical engineer and loves technology. More often than not you'll find him gaming or mucking around with random bits of tech. After founding The Virtual Reality Space in 2019, he found a love for sharing his passion with others and can't see himself stopping anytime soon.