The integration of augmented reality (AR) into telemedicine has the potential to make a big difference in the way in which doctors and healthcare professionals can do their diagnosis and recommend suitable treatment. However, many countries are yet to explore the full potential of augmented reality either due lack of awareness or because of adoption issues.
Whether it is for patient education, detailing the diagnosis, or any other timely intervention, AR can play a transformational role in telemedicine. It is significant to note that AR techniques can be seamlessly adopted in today’s times, if the health ecosystem achieves its fullest potential. While there is a notion that AR adoption is a costly affair, a closer understanding of the concept will reveal that it is quite economical especially when one achieves economies of scale.
In healthcare, AR applications are most seen in the field of surgery, rehabilitation, teaching & training. Superimposition of images from MR scans, ultrasound or CT in real time helps in education. Other AR applications in telemedicine include distance teaching and training of minimally invasive surgeries in operation theatres and rehabilitation of motor functions using virtual reality.
AR in Patient Education
Patient education is the bedrock on which healthcare is built and this is where technology can play a role, especially in telemedicine. Effective communication between the doctor and the patient is key to providing high-quality healthcare. Historically doctors use drawings and 3D models to explain in great detail about a condition, treatment or surgical procedures. With advancement of technology, AR can make the process of information dissemination more detailed during patient education.
Augmented Reality (AR) is the tool that’s now coming to the fore, enabling doctors to educate the patients in a more wholesome fashion. AR tools can play a crucial role in telemedicine, enabling an easier explanation of anatomical structures and physiological mechanisms to a layman than a mere video consultation.
One important advantage that AR has, is in helping patients and their families understand the details of a medical procedure beforehand. This can help in reducing the concerns of the patients. Ability to highlight and annotate models for deeper explanation is another feature that can help in this regard. The same can be used for doctor to doctor interactions too.
AR is helping in crucial interventions
Augmented reality (AR) is the process of adding computer generated information onto the user’s view of the real world. Augmented Reality helps users to navigate their ecosystem better by getting the users into a simulated world.
For example, the HCP can transform a 2D diagram or a model of a brain into an interactive 3D animation that can be enlarged, rotated, annotate, animate, zoom, and investigated much more closely and in far more detail than regular non interactive tools that they have been using to date.
The ability to get into details of the procedures from the HCPs point of view is an invaluable guidance and understanding. These modules can be integrated and used for both OP and Virtual care. With the incorporation of new technologies, AR has the potential to revolutionise the way HCPs diagnose, educate and treat their patients.
- Detailed images, multiple angles and peer discussion are key benefits.
- Detailed Patient Education
- Can be used in peer discussions by HCPs – for instance virtual tumour board, Continuing Professional Development (CPD), Medical Colleges etc.
- Multiple angles and views
- Detailed images with zoom functionality
- Ability to annotate for adding notes and descriptions
- It is affordable, especially when it comes to patient education
Impediments to AR adoption
- With short windows for consultation, time can be a limiting factor.
- The time taken to fire up the device, choose the image, explain the same to the patient, answer questions etc is a factor
- Time taken for developing models
- ROI can take longer time if developed by individual hospitals
- While tech devices like Google Glass can help raise the level of healthcare experience, they are relatively expensive
The next curve in adoption of AR tech is its logical extension into homecare, aged care, sports medicine and rehabilitation from an adoption perspective for users/patients. From the HCP perspective, I would think that it should start right from the medical colleges where the upcoming HCPs are exposed to newer technologies making it easier for them to adopt them at the start of their career in medicine.
By Pramod Kutty – CEO & Co Founder, Connect2MyDoctor
(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHealthworld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person / organisation directly or indirectly)