The New Age of Patient Connect Powered By AR/VR
We have to agree that patient care is changing. It is moving far away from the transactional, doctor-driven, one-size-fits-all approach that we have so far been used to.
Healthcare providers across the globe have accepted that healthcare also has to step up to the expectations created by an on-demand digital economy. They have realized that they have to step up patient care and make it more proactive and personalized. This new world order in healthcare is led by technology. As we get used to the EHR’s and mobile healthcare, technologies such as AR and VR are shaking up the patient care paradigm.
While we thought that AR and VR are technologies improving the gaming experience, today they are changing every industry they touch. Given the value shown by AR and VR, their adoption is skyrocketing even in a serious industry like healthcare. Statistics reveal that by 2025 the AR and VR healthcare market will reach USD 6141.78 million showing a growth rate of 30.1 % over the forecast period 2018-2025. The market, this study shows, is being driven by applications of these technologies in diagnostic imaging, surgical simulation, patient care management, rehabilitation, and health management.
Here, we take a look at how AR and VR are completely transforming the patient care paradigm and ushering in the new age of healthcare.
AR and VR in the Operation Theatre
AR and VR have gone to work in the operation theatre giving doctors the bandwidth to plan out complicated operations better. With high-level visualizations presented by this technology, doctors can now comfortably walk through any part of the physical human body. They can peel away the parts of the structure they are targeting and see exactly what they need to.
How does this high-level visualization help? These high-level visualizations limit the number of surprises surgeons could encounter during a complicated surgery and help them experience what they could confront before they enter the body. Think complicated spinal surgeries. Wouldn’t it be great if surgeons could get enhanced perception capabilities and instead of looking at a display away from the patient, the display would be where the surgeon looks? How about giving the surgeon the insight into the best device path she needs to take to place pedicle screws in such a surgery? Quite neat, don’t you think?
These technologies also enhance the understanding of complex surgical procedures making them more precise.
There are several successful examples of high-level visualizations using AR and VR to conduct the surgery for the separation of conjoined twins.
AR and VR meet Radiology
What does radiology have to do with patient experience and patient care you ask? This might seem an unlikely match to consider but reflect with us, will you? Imagine having a strange ache or discomfort for which you need scanning. You go to the radiologist and he takes the two-dimensional approach that is existing today. A couple of x-rays and scans later, the radiologist determines what could be wrong with you or repeat these tests until he/she does.
Now put AR and VR at work. You got to the radiologist who uses these technologies. He/she gains a complete 3-D view of the anatomy as if it was right in front of them. They can promptly detect and diagnose an anomaly and also monitor such anomalies more precisely. This technology edge is proving to be immensely useful for interventional radiologists and is helping them and doctors plan out the best treatment courses for patients.
In the oncology department, AR and VR can be a huge boon. It can boost serial imaging to determine the growth patterns of tumors, its locations, and anatomy.
Better patient outcomes and better engagement also happens when information exchange happens more precisely, isn’t it?
AR and VR play the Game of Empathy
What is better – sympathy or empathy? In the healthcare paradigm, empathy goes a long way. And what is the best way to build empathy? Getting the caregivers and the invested stakeholders an experience into what it is like living with a disease or a disorder like glaucoma or macular degeneration using simulations or games.
If you thought that it was only empathy was the outcome of providing this experience, think again. Along with empathy, these experiences give caregivers a deeper insight into how they could help the patient better. What resources do they need to employ to make the patient’s life better and easier? What kind of assistance will be best for the patient? What kind of treatment plans should they make?
AR and VR help in quantifying the inanimate ‘feelings’- something that healthcare providers can leverage to drive patient experience.
AR and VR help Patient Rehabilitation and Pain Management
Patient rehabilitation and pain management can be challenging for all caregivers and patients alike. You need to execute this with empathy and professionalism especially when traditional forms of therapy fail. Take PTSD for example. It can be hard to reduce symptoms of PTSD using traditional exposure therapy. Or take rehabilitation of a person who has undergone brain surgery. How can you best make sure that rehabilitation to regain motor and cognitive skills is optimized while also ensuring pain reduction?
Traditionally, ‘distraction’ has been a ‘go-to’ method of pain management. Distraction is the name of the game in the more-serious hospital rehabilitation environment to assist patient care as well.
A VR game, for example, helps burn victims divert their mind during treatment. This game allows the patient to throw virtual snowballs during this excruciating treatment diverting their mind from the pain that they were experiencing. Research also shows that such distraction using immersive technologies such as VR is twice as effective in pain-management as morphine. This technology can also be used to treat patients experiencing phantom-limb syndrome.
AR and VR Set Out to Guide
For a patient, is there any greater fear than imagining what is going to happen to his/her body during a surgery or during a treatment plan? What do you think goes through the mind of patient’s families when a doctor talks to them about what is going to happen during surgery?
Isn’t fear the only thing that reigns there, harvesting itself deep into the consciousness of the patients and their loved ones? Wouldn’t it be a relief if instead of just ‘talking’ we could walk them through the procedure or help patients understand their conditions better?
Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, for example, are using interactive visualizations in their pediatric cardiology department. Using AR and VR they are now helping parents truly understand the heart conditions of their children and reducing the debilitating component of fear.
AR and VR Build Equity in the Healthcare Experience
We need equity in healthcare. We need to make sure that in today’s day of advanced medicine, people in underserved areas are not wanting in good healthcare. In some cases, patients do not have access to qualified healthcare professionals locally. These professionals might not have the experience to carry out a procedure. These patients would then need to look at professional care from experts in different cities or even countries. Not only is the patient looking at severely escalating costs but is also losing out on time.
Now if we were to employ AR and VR technology these patients could get remote access to experts easily. Using Google Glass, or tablets, a real-time projection of the remotely located expert’s hands could be overlaid onto the local surgeon’s field of sight for the intraoperative assistance!
Children’s of Alabama Hospital (USA) and Children’s Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) have been using Virtual Interactive Presence and Augmented Reality (VIPAR) telecommunication system for such intraoperative assistance and thereby controlling costs, improving patient outcomes and building equity in healthcare.
Yes, AR and VR have the potential to transform the entire patient-connect ecosystem and not just superficially. As AR and VR mature, platforms become stronger, resilient and more secure, and device prices go down, these two technologies will definitely find themselves becoming drivers of the new patient experience and make the healthcare sector more democratic and patient-centric.