Advances in technology have always helped healthcare practitioners deliver higher quality healthcare. In addition to AI innovations in telehealth, advancements in Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have the potential to usher in a new era of healthcare delivery with transformative impacts.
The Potential of AR and VR in Telehealth
AR and VR technology helps doctors transcend physical location constraints to deliver remote patient care while in some ways – enhancing in person care. Healthcare systems are starting to recognize the powerful impact that the combination of AR/VR and telehealth is going to have on a wide range of healthcare services.
- A recent study from Deloitte indicates that 80% of healthcare professionals believe the significant impact that AR/VR are going to have on healthcare in the next five years.
- Research by Allied Market Research shows that the AR/VR applications in the healthcare market are expected to grow to $28.8 billion by 2028.
Before we take a deep dive into the impact of AR/VR, let’s look at the basic definitions of both types of technology and how each one relates to telehealth specifically.
What is Augmented Reality (AR) in telehealth?
Augmented Reality (AR) integrates the user’s real-world environment with virtual imagery and digital information. This interwoven environment creates a real-time interactive experience that adds the overlay of digital perceptual information to the natural environment.
In telehealth, AR can allow healthcare providers to add visual and data-based overlays via a smartphone or other device that can help doctors with virtual diagnosis and give useful information to patients.
What is Virtual Reality (VR) in telehealth?
Virtual Reality (VR) is an immersive, fully virtual environment that replaces or replicates the real-world environment with a simulated one. VR uses headsets or integrated multi-projected simulations to create the visuals, sounds, and sensations of a real environment in a virtual world. In telehealth, VR can enable a wide range of scenarios from fully immersive 360-degree virtual appointments to allowing doctors to perform virtual surgery while controlling a surgical device via VR.
How AR and VR Technology Can Improve Telehealth Experiences
It’s a digital-first world, and there are more than 3 billion people with high-definition cameras in their hands and better connectivity around. Doctors can connect with their patients on HD video and voice calls, thanks to telehealth technology like in-app video calling.
AR and VR expand on the standard telehealth video call by adding massive visual advantages for providers and patients. Combined with computer vision that uses AI to analyze and identify things visually, these technologies can take virtual healthcare communication to the next level, while adding benefits that extend beyond standard in-person appointments.
The introduction of AR and VR can help doctors overcome a wide range of telehealth challenges, including accurate diagnosis, conducting virtual and minimally invasive surgeries, and patient management.
Here are a few use cases of AR/VR expected to revolutionize the future of healthcare delivery and patient experience.
- Cross-functional collaboration – Specialists, surgeons, and clinicians from different locations can use AR/VR to collaborate in real time while viewing a patient’s medical records or diagnosing and discussing further treatment plans.
- Remote patient surgery and care – AR and VR technology can help surgeons perform complex medical procedures from a remote location, making healthcare more accessible for the needy. In addition, real time accessibility to patients’ data and connectivity with other specialists helps the providers to bring in better outcomes.
- Healthcare professional training – The tech-powered reality helps medical and allied medical staff undergo training sessions in a safe, controlled, and immersive learning environment. These training sessions provide accurate feedback by identifying the areas of improvement of a particular professional and provide personalized training exercises.
- Patient education – Well-informed patients also contribute to better treatment outcomes. AR and VR technology can help doctors educate patients about their current health condition, treatment options, and the effects of surgery or other treatments with realistic images of their heart or brain. AR is particularly accessible to patients as all they need is a smartphone camera. Using an AR telehealth app, a patient could point the camera at their leg to see an overlay of information and visuals that educate them about recovery from an injury.
- Remote post-surgery patient care– AR and VR can help doctors understand the patient’s condition in real time while caring remotely. VR can also help patients manage their discomfort or pain in a better way by transporting them to a soothing virtual environment or giving them specific rehab instructions or exercises via AR.
- Mental healthcare – AR and VR can be used in the treatment of mental health. For example, VR can be used to provide calming and relaxing experiences, help people manage stress and anxiety, or alleviate the pain or fear of a patient who underwent a traumatic experience. When combined with virtual therapy sessions, these immersive experiences have vast potential to help treat a wide variety of mental health conditions.
From offering greater healthcare accessibility to providing impactful learning experiences, the applications of AR/VR in telehealth will continue to expand as adoption continues.
AR and VR powered by AI will continue to play a defining role in telehealth and its remote applications.
To learn more about AR and VR in telehealth from industry experts, register for our upcoming webinar on November 14th here: Advances in AI and AR/VR for Telehealth: The Future of Healthcare Delivery