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September 14, 2016

Uncovering 6 Strong Use Cases for AR & VR in Medicine

As new technologies emerge, it is critical to evaluate their use from a business perspective. As part of exploring the business case for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in medicine, we conducted a survey in partnership with the Society for American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES).

The purpose of the research was twofold: to gauge interest and adoption of AR and VR technologies and to explore the medical uses cases for AR and VR – from the physicians’ perspective.

At the SAGES event, doctors were presented with five different experiences on two different devices. Two of the experiences were medical and three were not. And then the doctors were asked to provide specific feedback.

This research uncovered six medical use cases for AR and VR. Following is a high-level description of each.

Doctor-Supported Medical Use Cases for AR and VR

1.  Surgical Procedures Training

Training surgeons to become effective and efficient in completing surgical procedures is costly and presents ethical challenges.

Currently, most such training is done either on animals in hospital ORs, in special labs, or on cadavers. As such, practice, which is the best way for any learner to progress, is limited.

AR and VR simulation can support practice procedures for medical students, interns and residents. It is both convenient and available.  Thus economic and ethical issues could be mitigated by using AR and VR applications to replace or augment cadaver and animal labs.

2.  Anatomy Training

Basic anatomy training typically comes from illustrations in books. While these are beautiful, they show anatomy in only one orientation, and surgeons rarely operate in that orientation.

Today, high-value anatomical training is typically done using cadavers. While use of cadavers is effective, it is costly and not readily attainable.

Consider how AR and VR can improve anatomy training by making it easy to see the relationships between structures and view the anatomy from any direction, adding and removing structures to increase visibility.

Further, with AR and VR able to be deployed anywhere a computer can be used, it can increase access to anatomy training resources at a much lower cost than a cadaver lab.

3.  Surgical Planning

Surgical complications can be devastating for the patient, the hospital and the surgeon.

Enabling surgeons - of all skill levels - to plan and practice the procedure may decrease complication rates and lead to better surgical outcomes. With the ability to incorporate real patient CT images in AR and VR, surgeons can plan, collaborate, and practice with the surgical team in a 3D environment.

4.  Replacement for Animal Labs

Right now, medical device companies spend significant resources on training in animal labs. The use of animal labs also raises ethical concerns for companies.

Companies could use AR and VR technologies to decrease dependence on animal labs, saving money and easing ethical concerns.

5.  Operating Room Work Flow

Often, residents arrive unprepared to function in the fast-moving operating room (OR) at their new place of employment.

The view they’re accustomed to seeing is changed in their new role. The placement of equipment in the room is unfamiliar and can contribute to inefficiency and hesitation, possibly leading to complications for the patient.

VR can create a virtual OR so residents can become familiar with layout and workflow.

In addition, hospital administration can better plan how the OR is laid out, especially the placement of large items, such as a large multi-dimensional imaging device  or a robotic surgical device.

6.  Remote Education

Underdeveloped parts of the world lack the resources and technology to provide excellent training to physicians and allied healthcare staff.

VR has the ability to provide a high-quality, relatively low-cost training platform that could significantly increase access to care and healthcare quality in underdeveloped parts of the world.

The potential for AR and VR to positively impact medical training and clinical education is significant. The above represent the start of the changes AR and VR technologies will bring to healthcare.

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