How Augmented Reality Could Benefit Health IT Infrastructure

HITINFRASTRUCTURE: Augmented reality (AR) has been off to a slow start in the enterprise world, but it will experience rapid growth beginning in 2018, according to ABI Research. The healthcare vertical is also expected to take the lead with AR.

The report claims that 2016 was a year of discovery for AR, and the pilot phase will continue into 2017 with early adopters moving toward the beginnings of substantial deployment.

Report authors predict that in 2018, the AR market will grow at a CAGR of 227 percent by 2021 as enterprises gain a better understanding of how the technology can benefit business.

The healthcare industry is expected to be one of the top verticals benefiting from AR in the near future, using some form of smartglasses.

Augmented reality allows users to see a projected future of their physical environment with added or augmented elements altering the perception of the real world. AR has become popular over the past several years in video games by projecting images onto into the user’s environment, allowing them to use their own space rather than one presented by a video game.

AR is not only for consumers and potentially has a place in health IT infrastructure from designing buildings and networks, to training future surgeons.

Healthcare organizations are looking to AR for educational and telehealth purposes to give users a more interactive experience.

“The effective development of healthcare competencies poses great educational challenges. A possible approach to provide learning opportunities is the use of AR where virtual learning experiences can be embedded in a real physical context,” wrote the authors of Augmented Reality in Healthcare Education.

The Augmented Reality in Healthcare Education study found that ninety-six percent of the material studied claimed that AR is useful for improving healthcare education. The material outlined benefits of educational AR to include decreased amount of practice, reduced failure rate, improved performance accuracy, accelerated learning, and better understanding of special relationships.

AR is able to teach prospective surgeons and even seasoned surgeons how to perform surgeries in a manner that is more realistic and related to what the real surgery will look like.

While AR has many education benefits, the study also points out several drawbacks, including a lack of learning theories available to guide AR design and that traditional learning theories do not match up to the AR learning style.

AR has also been used in military medic training to reduce preventable causes of death on the battlefield. A study testing medical students using AR goggles treated the cadaver model more accurately than students relying on memory in a high-pressure situation.

While smartglasses have generally decreased in use in the consumer and enterprise market, many health systems are still finding value in them for AR and telehealth.

Smartglasses can be found in operating rooms, patient bedsides, offices, and clinics to make it more convenient for clinicians to treat patients.  Smartglasses allow doctors to spend more time interacting with patients when they don’t have the distraction of entering information into an electronic health record (EHR).

Smartglasses can be used in a variety of ways, including walking patients through future surgical procedures and immersion therapy for patients that suffer with anxiety or phobias.

Healthcare organizations can also use AR for facility planning. Healthcare wireless network deployments are complicated and require serious planning. Healthcare organizations have connected medical devices and Internet of Things (IoT) devices to plan for. Planning a network around a building, especially an old building, can be challenging.

Organizations can use AR to plan their network layout and make adjustments before any physical implementation takes place.

AR has a place in health IT infrastructure, but the technology is still widely unproven and expensive. As more studies are produced supporting the value of AR in healthcare, more healthcare organizations will likely consider it as part of their evolving infrastructure.

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