Extended Reality and the Changing Face of Medicine

Alassane Soumare | January 31, 2019

              As both virtual and augmented reality (VR & AR) platforms are gaining a drastic surge in popularity, it’s only natural that their focus would expand from the entertainment industry to a wider net into other fields. Both AR and VR are far from new technologies, however the main difference, besides the beefier specs and overall size of the devices is price and accessibility. Hardware had always been a barrier to entry and currently with all the competition between companies it has never been a better time to fiscally take the plunge.

              Amongst the various industries prime for the use of extended reality lies the medical field. Though it’s use may still seem futuristic to some, many forward-thinking physicians, clinics and hospitals alike are beginning to see the key impacts that these technologies are making. Virtual reality is already being used to train surgeons, treat post-traumatic stress disorder (among other conditions) and educate patients about how various diseases affect their bodies.

              Just as important, augmented reality is being used by nurses to see patients’ veins through their skin and monitor other important vitals without the use of the traditionally clunky hardware we’re used to. The technology is also becoming very popular with doctors and other healthcare workers in war zones where the size of the devices can literally mean the difference between life and death. Inevitably, as hardware continues to improve, prices drop and software advances, incredible opportunities will be identified in the medical community.

              At Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, residents are using VR to better understand how to resuscitate patients in immersive 3-D simulations based on real-world emergency situations. This, in turn, cuts down on the annual $430,000 cost of the previously used mannequins but more importantly performance improvements among the residents. At Cedar’s Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, psychiatrists have used VR to treat the growing number of patients suffering from opioid addictions. Physicians at the University of Maryland are experimenting with AR to view ultrasounds while diagnosing patients, while a company called Accuvein has created a device that scans veins and projects an AR visualization onto the patient’s skin.

              At an extremely basic level, the technology has been used very effectively as a distraction from pain, reducing the need for heavy pain medication. Military burn victims dealing with the excruciating process of wound debridement were split into two groups, those equipped with and without headsets. Those who received the VR experience, unsurprisingly reported less pain than those who hadn’t.

              Naturally hard data is necessary for such a delicate situation and it’s safe to say the numbers speak for themselves. Accuvein has reported 45 percent fewer escalations due to their tech, whereas the University of Saskatchewan claimed that their medical students improved their learning accuracy by about 20 percent with the use of VR.

              The future of extended reality can go in many exciting ways. While hardware is getting smaller, faster and more powerful, engineers and software developers are developing simulations which will be able to measure patients’ physical limitations, therefore, applying the appropriate resistance necessary in rehabilitation. Remote diagnostics and procedures are also quickly becoming a reality allowing professionals to reach patients otherwise not attainable due to natural disasters and or manmade obstructions. As the tools get more advanced the possibilities will only be limited by the imagination.

              Extended reality devices have immense disruptive potential, with the capacity to change how the healthcare industry delivers patient care and provider training. Both AR and VR is helping to take medicine outside the clinical spaces and will present a wide range of opportunities for innovators as the industry continues to adapt. We here at Cemtrex (VR and Labs) share this vision of the future and all the potential the technology possesses for the medical field and beyond by continually striving to live on the cutting edge. From interactive gaming experiences to virtual workspaces, the possibilities are endless, and our team will continue to leverage all the tools in our arsenal.