Augmented Reality in Healthcare? It’s Already Here

Augmented Reality is increasingly showing up in healthcare settings.

It has not even been 125 years since the X-ray was discovered in a German physics lab. How is it possible that our visualization technology has leapt so far ahead that surgeons are practicing procedures using augmented reality (AR) and students are studying human anatomy with AR headsets at medical school?

The pace of discovery is so accelerated these days that it’s hard to keep up with the digital transformation of the healthcare industry. That’s in part because of widely available open source platforms that give everyone easy access to high-tech tools. Not every equipment lab, hospital, or healthcare company needs to program its own visualization algorithms or Natural Language Processing systems anymore. They can make use of tools that Google, Microsoft, and Amazon provide in the cloud.

There’s a ton of money going into these developments and enormous improvements in patient health outcomes and satisfaction at stake. So, perhaps it’s not surprising that Statista, a statistics portal that indexes 22,500 data sources, predicts AR and VR applications in healthcare will reach $5.1 billion by 2025.

Remember dissecting fetal pigs in anatomy class? Or the macabre stories told by friends in medical school about getting their first cadaver? Those may become as obsolete as bleeding patients with leeches to correct imbalances in bodily humors.

Right now, students at Case Western Reserve University are studying anatomy via an AR app that can be used with Microsoft’s Hololens. “HoloAnatomy” emerged out of the world’s first third-party medical app created for Hololens and was a collaborative effort between the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University.

The Cleveland Clinic is no stranger to firsts: It has ranked as the #1 healthcare center for heart health for 22 years in a row. Now with this foray into innovative technology development (and the tech definitely elicits gasps even from seasoned medical school professors) the clinic has established its reputation as a pioneer in the use and development of augmented reality in medicine.

AR is also making its way into the operating room. In Oslo, Norway, surgeons have teamed up with developers to stitch 2-D medical images into 3-D AR models to help plan and practice surgeries. Imagine having the chance to see an artery before you nick it. Or to visualize the full extent of a tumor, so you don’t need to excise unnecessary tissue. According to Bjørn Edwin, surgeon at Oslo University Hospital, leaving more of healthy liver tissue intact during liver cancer surgery helps patients outcomes by increasing their ability to withstand subsequent operations. Even better: it helps them heal faster.

Technology innovation in healthcare is not just bells and whistles. It’s transforming patient care and patient outcomes as well as teaching students better and faster. That’s what our team at Valence offers for our healthcare clients, as well.

At Valence, we have the capability and the expertise to add real-time data to augmented reality views of real patients in real time. Imagine the possibilities for your facility. Interested in hearing more? Contact us, and we’ll start you off with a demo, to show how remarkable this technology can be!