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In-Depth Jobs


Issue no 01, 01-07 April 2023

Augmented Reality: Futuristic Solution Transforming Healthcare

Mihir Singh

In modern times, technology is the primary driver of functionality in human society. The development and progression of cuttingedge technology, such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence, have fundamentally altered the way we perform tasks. In addition to the humanmachine interface, which connects people and machines, there has been an increase in the innovation of virtual and realworld integration through Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR) technologies.

VR and AR can be viewed as two complementary approaches to presenting reality through technology. Both seek to enhance a person's sensory experience by immersing them in a virtual environment. VR is associated with home computers and online simulations that offer a parallel realm of existence. AR, on the other hand, blends real and virtual objects and is interactive in three dimensions. Augmented Reality (AR) has been used in a variety of areas, including gaming, entertainment, education, and advertising. However, in recent years, AR has made significant inroads into the healthcare industry, particularly in medical training, patient care, and surgical procedures. The healthcare sector is one of the most vital industries globally, serving millions of people every day. However, it faces significant challenges, including the rising costs of services and shortage of healthcare workers. Innovative technological solutions have become increasingly necessary to help overcome these challenges and provide better patient care. This article explores the ways in which AR is aiding the healthcare sector from patient diagnosis to treatment and even post-treatment follow-up.

AR in Medical Training

One way in which AR is used in medical training is through the creation of virtual 3D models of the human body. Medical students can view and manipulate these models on devices such as tablets and smart-phones, allowing them to see the intricate details of human anatomy in a more realistic way. This can help students to better understand complex concepts and processes. Medical students can use AR technology to practise surgical techniques and procedures, such as inserting catheters or performing laparoscopic surgery. This allows students to gain valuable hands-on experience in a safe and controlled environment, without the risk of harming real patients.

In addition to anatomy and surgical training, AR can also be used to teach students about the effects of medication and drugs on the human body. AR can display graphics and animations that show how specific drugs interact with the body, giving students a better understanding of the pharmacological effects of different drugs.

AR for Surgical Precision

The use of augmented reality (AR) in surgery has emerged as an innovative approach to improving healthcare outcomes. Medical surgeries are a critical aspect of healthcare, and the integration of AR technology can offer several advantages. One such benefit is the ability to provide a realistic depiction of surgical procedures during various kinds of operations. AR can serve as a practice tool for medical students, enabling them to learn medical processes without relying solely on traditional cadaver-based practice. Additionally, the use of AR can guide learners through the steps of the procedure, facilitating the learning process by providing hands-on experience.

Surgical procedures have a considerable mortality rate, and implementing AR can offer improved safety measures for patients. Surgeons can be assisted by their peers virtually, and the use of AR can provide real-time information on organ location, steps to deal with complications, vein mesh, and patient reports and conditions. This information can be displayed in front of the surgeon's eyes, allowing them to make informed decisions during surgery.

Another advantage of using AR in surgery is the ability to leverage remote expertise. In some cases, a specialist may be required to perform surgery, but they may be located miles away. By using AR-based applications and digital devices, surgeons can maintain real-time visual-based communication with remote specialists while performing surgery. Combining AR-based features with advanced analytics like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things can offer even more significant benefits, further improving surgical outcomes.

AR for Accurate Vein Location

Accurate and efficient vein location is crucial in many medical procedures such as intravenous injections, blood sampling, and catheterisation. Traditional methods of locating veins, such as palpation and visual inspection, can be time-consuming, inaccurate, and sometimes difficult in certain cases. AR technology offers a promising solution to this problem. AR can be used to superimpose a real-time image of the patient's veins onto the skin's surface, providing medical professionals with a clear and accurate view of the veins. This is accomplished using a specialised AR device, such as a headset or a tablet, which utilises advanced computer vision algorithms and real-time image processing. By providing medical professionals with a clear and detailed view of the veins in real-time, AR technology can help to avoid the need for multiple needle insertions, reducing patient discomfort and the risk of complications. Furthermore, AR technology can be particularly useful in situations where traditional vein location methods are challenging, such as with patients with dark skin or with small or difficult-to-locate veins.

AR in Medical Imaging

Medical imaging refers to the use of technology to produce visual representations of the interior of the body, which are then used by medical professionals to diagnose and treat various conditions. Augmented reality (AR) technology has the potential to enhance medical imaging by providing real-time, interactive visual feedback to medical professionals.

AR technology can be used to create specialised devices that combine with sensors and software to capture various readings and images of the internal organs. This information can then be displayed in real-time, using graphics and other visual aids to provide a comprehensive and detailed view of the patient's condition. This can help medical professionals to identify potential problems more quickly and accurately, and to tailor treatment plans accordingly.

One of the major advantages of AR in medical imaging is that it can help to educate patients about their condition and treatment options. By displaying visual representations of the patient's internal organs and showing how various treatments will affect them, medical professionals can help patients to better understand their condition and make informed decisions about their treatment.

Furthermore, AR technology can be used to create virtual simulations of medical procedures, allowing medical professionals to practise and refine their techniques before performing them on patients. This can help to reduce the risk of errors and complications during procedures, leading to better outcomes for patients.

AR for Improved Symptoms Description

Frequently, patients struggle to convey the precise nature of their current health conditions to medical professionals, often either embellishing or downplaying the symptoms they experience. This predicament can result in misdiagnosis and suboptimal treatment outcomes. However, the implementation of augmented reality technology can provide doctors with an unfiltered and comprehensive perspective of a patient's condition, independent of subjective patient reports. This technology enables doctors to accurately assess the severity of a patient's symptoms and deliver appropriate treatment.

This innovative technology not only helps doctors to accurately diagnose and treat conditions, but it also facilitates patients' comprehension of their symptoms, thus promoting greater engagement and participation in their treatment plan.

AR for Drug Information

Innovative drug information can be imparted to patients in a more engaging and effective manner through the use of augmented reality and cutting-edge graphics. This approach allows pharmaceutical companies to establish a credible and reliable reputation in the minds of patients by providing them with a 3D visualisation of how the medication operates within their bodies to combat specific medical conditions.

 Gone are the days when patients were left to decipher complicated medical language on the back of their syrup bottles to understand the drug's effectiveness. By leveraging augmented reality technology, patients can now gain a more intuitive understanding of how the drug interacts with their body. To implement this approach, pharmaceutical companies can create a detailed video graphic on their website, which patients can access by scanning the barcode on the medication bottle. This allows patients to see for themselves how the medication works, and they can do so from the comfort of their own homes.

Moreover, the use of augmented reality technology is not limited to patient education. Pharmaceutical companies can also use it to guide workers throughout the manufacturing process by providing detailed instructions and images through their smart phones or screens installed on the factory floor. This ensures that the manufacturing process is executed with the utmost precision and consistency, resulting in high-quality medications that are safe and effective.

AR Related Healthcare Sector Jobs

There are several different types of professionals or job roles involved in aiding the healthcare sector with augmented reality (AR). Here are a few examples:

Design Architect: The professionals working for this job profile focus on designing the interior and exterior of the AR devices used for medical purposes.

Software Developers and Trainers: There is substantial demand for professionals who design and develop AR applications and software solutions for the healthcare sector. Not only this, the service providers also deploy such profesionals as trainers and assistants to guide healthcare workers including doctors and nurses in using AR tools and software.

Medical Imaging Specialists: These professionals specialise in interpreting medical images, such as X-rays, MRI scans, and CT scans, and can use AR to visualise medical images in 3D and improve the accuracy of diagnoses.

Medical Educators: Medical educators can use AR technology to create interactive medical training simulations for medical students and healthcare professionals, teaching anatomy, surgical procedures, and more.

Medical Device Manufacturers: It is become imperative for medical device manufacturers to understand AR technology for designing and developing new medical devices and visualising how the device will interact with the patient's body.

UX Designers: User experience (UX) designers specialise in designing interfaces that are easy to use, visually appealing, and intuitive. In healthcare, UX designers use AR to create interfaces that allow healthcare professionals to easily access and visualise medical data.

Data Analysts: These professionals are responsible for collecting and analysing healthcare data to identify trends and insights that can improve patient outcomes. AR can be used to visualise and interact with this data in new ways, making it easier to understand and act upon.

Project Managers: Project managers oversee the development and implementation of AR solutions in healthcare, ensuring that projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of stakeholders.

As AR technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see even more roles emerge in this field.

Where and How to Study AR?

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 highlights the importance of focusing on student learning outcomes and making quality education accessible, affordable, equitable and inclusive. On these lines, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has prepared model curriculum for courses in emerging areas like (i) Artificial Intelligence (AI), (ii) Internet of Things (IoT), (iii) Block Chain, (iv) Robotics, (v) Quantum Computing (vi) Data Science (vii) Cyber Security (viii) 3D Printing and Design and (ix) Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR) etc., and permitted in engineering institutes from academic year 2020-21.

Many engineering colleges have started offering courses on AR and VR in various modes and at various levels. Besides, one can also pursue AR/VR through different MOOC (Massive Online Open Courses) platforms like Coursera, Udemy, Lynda, Youtube, edEX, Circuit Stream, etc.

Eligibility: Although the eligibility for each course changes according to the level and mode, the generic eligibility criteria are as under:

·         For admission to the undergraduate degree programmes of AR & VR, candidates must have completed their 10+2 education in science stream from a recognised board.

·         For admission to a postgraduate programme, candidates must have completed their graduation in a relevant stream of engineering or science from a recognised university/institute.

Entrance Exams: Most of the institutes in India select candidates for admission based on entrance exam scores and ranks. Many private institutes also offer admission to diploma and certificate level courses on the basis of merit. The engineering entrance exams in India at the UG and PG levels:

·         JEE Main (Joint Entrance ExaminationMain)

·         JEE Advanced (Joint Entrance Examination - Advanced) z BITSAT (Birla Institute of Technology and Science Admission Test )

·         MHTCET (Maharashtra Common Entrance Test)

·         VITEEE (Vellore Institute of Technology Engineering Entrance Exam) z GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering)

·         SRMJEEE (Sri Ramaswamy Memorial Institute of Science and Technology Joint Engineering Entrance Examination)

Curriculum

There are several undergraduate, postgraduate and diploma courses offered in Augmented Reality (AR) & Virtual Reality (VR). Conclusion The healthcare industry has been exhibiting a dynamic and technologically advanced approach by leveraging the potential of augmented reality. This innovation has facilitated a seamless and user-friendly experience for both healthcare practitioners and patients alike. The employment of this technology has facilitated an interactive and informative experience, enabling patients to remain cognizant of the medications, their health status, and progress details. Furthermore, the implementation of augmented reality has endowed the healthcare system with transparency, education, and adaptability. This technology has opened diverse avenues for its application, ranging from the comprehensive training of aspiring medical professionals to the execution of intricate medical procedures with minimal scope for errors.

In addition to its multifarious utilities, augmented reality has demonstrated remarkable cost-effectiveness, particularly when contrasted with traditional medical learning tools that are prohibitively expensive and necessitate extensive medical exposure for optimal comprehension. Thus, augmented reality has emerged as an economical, descriptive, and promising solution for the healthcare industry.

(The author is a career consultant and coach for science-based competitive examinations. He can be reached at mihirsingh761@ gmail.com).

Views expressed are personal.