COVID-19 Impact on Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in Healthcare

Posted by Prakash on April 23rd, 2021

COVID-19 Impact on Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in Healthcare Industry

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges before the healthcare industry. While the healthcare industries across countries are focusing on combating this particular pandemic, other areas of care are suffering. As a result, the industry is looking for technological solutions that will aid in enhancing efficiency to provide appropriate care to patients within various restrictions. As a result, COVID-19 has positively impacted the applications of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in the healthcare market.

Owing to several technological developments, augmented reality and virtual reality are gaining importance in the healthcare sector despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several studies for global AR in the healthcare market point out that the healthcare industry is increasing year-on-year investments in augmented reality to make the technology mainstream in the coming years. Florida-based manufacturing services company Jabil conducted an Augmented and Virtual Reality Technology Trends Survey to understand the scope of adoption AR/VR. The survey conducted across technology and business stakeholders concluded that almost 70% of respondents believe AR/VR will become main-stream within five years.

Among the various applications of augmented reality (AR) in healthcare, increasing the efficiency of surgeries is among the most after applications. As a result, the usage of augmented reality-enabled head-mounted displays (HMD) is currently used widely in surgeries. They are similar in appearance to smart glasses or virtual reality (VR) headsets. They provide information to surgeons regarding steps of the surgical procedure and supplementary information including medical images, patients’ vital signals, and steps involved in the surgery. Through the headset, augmented reality is used to share computer-generated models or super-imposed images that aid in increasing the efficiency of operation. For instance, to understand the injury of the specific parts, AccuVein Inc. develops projector like devices for displaying vasculature on the skin surface.

Intervention planning is greatly impacted by new techniques of visualization. Another example of a system aiding in intervention planning is the ARGUS system that assists a surgeon by displaying both intra-operative ultrasound data and pre-operative computer tomography in the 3D format in real-time. The system uses optically tracked augmented reality glasses. The system is set to be used as an orientation tool for planning the surgery or modification of old plans in the surgical theatre. The system will improve the collaboration between radiologists and surgeons as the radiologist can interact with a surgeon in remote assistance using an augmented image. Moreover, the system has the potential to increase the accuracy of operations and aid minimally invasive surgeries.  

The adoption of AR glasses for performing surgeries has also increased. For instance, St. Mary’s Hospital and Imperial College in London are conducting reconstructive surgery using advanced AR glasses. These glasses locate major blood cells accurately and show blood vessels in 3D format. AR glasses offer an alternative to handheld scanners for performing surgeries.   

Illinois-based Augmedics has developed an AR guidance system called xvisison spine system (XVS) that shows the 3-dimensional anatomy of the spine during surgery. The system also aids in surgeries by showing the positioning of surgical tools utilized during surgery in real-time.

Table 1: Difference between Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR):

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