5 Ways Extended Reality Is Transforming Healthcare
In a world where technology constantly evolves, extended reality (XR) is emerging as a trailblazer in the healthcare industry. This revolutionary technology, encompassing augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR), is reshaping how medical practitioners currently approach patient care, medical education, therapy and rehabilitation, and more.
XR in Healthcare – What’s the Deal?
XR is not necessarily a new innovation in healthcare. In fact, the global healthcare XR market size reached US$ 4.5 billion in 2022. Projections indicate that it will surpass the US$20 billion mark by 2028, signifying its rapid integration into the healthcare sector. From interactive medical education to safe therapy and rehabilitation, let’s dive into 5 ways XR is revolutionizing the healthcare industry.
1. Interactive and Engaging Medical Education
There is a lot of buzz surrounding XR in medical training, and with good reason. Picture this: instead of resident doctors merely viewing two-dimensional images of X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs on a screen, they can explore 3D renderings of these scans right in front of them, making disease processes clearer than ever before.
Moreover, surgeons in training can practice complex procedures in a virtual environment that replicates a real operating room. They would get to experience the perspective of doing the procedure in real life without the risks and stress associated with actual surgery.
2. Enhanced Patient Education
Patient education stands to benefit immensely from XR technologies. Medical professionals can record and share treatment and recovery procedures on XR platforms, providing patients with insightful glimpses into their healthcare journey. Prior to appointments, patients can explore these recorded procedures and gain a more comprehensive understanding of their proposed treatment plans and anticipated outcomes.
This is an immersive approach to patient education, shifting from a mere explanation to a visual representation of their health. From this, outpatients are better equipped to manage their recovery and reduce unnecessary trips to the hospital.
3. Efficient Surgical Planning
In the realm of complex surgical procedures such as heart surgeries or brain tumour removals, seasoned surgeons are increasingly harnessing the power of XR for meticulous planning. Through a seamless blend of AR and VR, they gain the ability to delve deep into diverse surgical approaches, anticipate potential challenges, and carefully craft solutions, all before setting foot into the actual operating room. This pre-operative XR immersion provides surgeons with a virtual testing ground where they can fine-tune their plans, leading to heightened precision and confidence when they finally step into the surgical suite.
4. Augmented Surgery
During surgical procedures, the intricate task of pinpointing vital structures, often hidden deep within the patient’s body, poses a formidable challenge. Here’s where AR can play a transformative role by seamlessly overlaying elaborate 3D images onto the surgeon’s real-time field of view. Essentially, it acts as a guiding hand and helps facilitate precise navigation around critical structures such as tumours and blood vessels. Real-world surgeries fused with AR isn’t entirely new as similar technologies have been employed by neurosurgeons to precisely remove brain tumours.
5. Safe Therapy and Rehabilitation
Healthcare professionals can create tailored VR environments to facilitate physical therapy sessions exercises and treat mental health conditions, such as phobias or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). By offering real-world perceptions without the inherent risks found in actual scenarios, patients can leverage XR to accelerate their recovery.
For instance, in the domain of physical rehabilitation, physical therapists can design intricate digital obstacle courses that patients navigate. This approach allows patients to mimic real-world challenges, honing their abilities and strengthening their bodies without the risk of injury that traditional obstacle courses might entail. Similarly, patients suffering from phobias can undergo gradual exposure therapy within a safe and controlled virtual environment, eliminating the risk of real-world harm.
VR-applied therapy and rehabilitation provides a safe yet realistic space for patients to recover from their ailments. To get the best out of the application of VR in physical therapy, it is highly suggested to use it in conjunction with full-body tracking (FBT).
Accurate Full-Body Tracking in VR Physical Therapy Using AXIS
It is crucial for patients to practice physical therapy exercises correctly as those can immensely affect recovery rates and reduce the likelihood of re-injury. On its own, VR lacks a way to track patient movements effectively, making it impossible to know whether the patient is practising these exercises correctly. This is where full-body motion capture with AXIS comes in.
AXIS (Active XR Interface System) is built for accuracy and ease of use – making sure that patients can easily suit up and have their movements tracked accurately. It enables them to complete physical therapy exercises correctly, minimizing the risk of injury and speeding up the recovery process.
To achieve desirable physical therapy outcomes, AXIS utilizes up to 16 interchangeable nodes – each with 9 degrees of freedom to deliver pinpoint accuracy, allowing patients to naturally interact with objects in the virtual world. It also has haptic feedback sensors built into each node to simulate a sense of touch and physical interaction. With a long battery life that can last up to 4 hours, it allows patients to engage in lengthy, uninterrupted physical therapy sessions to minimize the stress on their recovery programs.
Extended reality is making a profound yet understated impact on the healthcare landscape. It’s silently reshaping various facets of the industry, from medical education and surgical practices to therapeutic interventions. XR brings innovative solutions to the forefront while upholding a professional and informative approach that holds immense promise for the future of healthcare.