How AR and VR Can Revolutionize the Healthcare Industry

Updated: Jun 22

Needless to say, the American healthcare system has seen tremendous strain over the past couple of years, exacerbated by a global pandemic that devastated the public. In tandem with record levels of healthcare professional burnout, it's clear that innovation is necessary to keep the healthcare industry working as needed.

New technology could be part of the solution that the health care industry is looking for. Virtual and augmented reality are two examples of emerging technology that could offer a lot of benefits to the healthcare industry. With VR and AR, training new healthcare professionals could be more efficient and effective, and this same technology could offer new tools to prevent burnout and increase retention among existing healthcare workers.

Augmedix is the perfect example of a company that could revolutionize how healthcare professionals work with patients. Through the use of augmented reality, like a Google Glass headset, Augmedix offers doctors the ability to work with a virtual scribe. This scribe can see and hear everything that the doctor can, and takes notes in the doctor's stead. This system offers a surprising amount of benefits, and contributes in ways that can eliminate burnout. Doctors can focus more on their patients, and having a virtual scribe vastly cuts down on the time that providers need to spend taking notes. Additionally, because the notes are taken live, rather than following an appointment, they are more directly accurate to whatever is being communicated by the patient.

Augmedix is not the only company looking to boost accuracy in healthcare through augmented reality. Pixee Medical focuses on the use of AR during surgery. Their Knee+ software uses AR to more accurately assess the position of a knee implant during total knee arthroplasty surgery. Knee+ works through QR codes mounted to surgical equipment. These QR codes are scanned via a head-mounted augmented reality display, which are then translated through the headset software into a heads-up display to provide the surgeon with more information, including the precise angle and positioning of both the implant and surgical hardware.

According to Pixee Medical, Knee+ not only enables more accurate surgery with a lower risk of error, it also allows for a less invasive surgery overall. According to their website, Knee+ has the added benefits of "reduced MIS instrumentation, no intramedullary rod, and no percutaneous pins." Ultimately, this means surgery with Knee+ is less invasive, without a need for any additional permanent implants.

AR is not the only emergent technology that has the capacity to change how the healthcare field works. Virtual reality also has a lot of its own merits, from offering hospital patients a therapeutic experience, to having the capacity to diagnose and correct vision problems.

Heru VR
Heru's VR headset for visual acuity testing

Heru is a company that uses a virtual reality headset to assist in giving visual acuity exams. Rather than having to invest in a lot of expensive proprietary equipment that needs an entire room dedicated to it, doctors can simply give patients a small VR headset, and easily administer a vision test that way.

Another vision-based medical VR company is Luminopia, whose product is used to treat amblyopia, or "lazy eye", in children aged 4 to 7. Rather than an eye patch, which must be used for hours a day for years, Luminopia can correct amblyopia with their VR software, used for an hour per day for only 3 to 6 months.

SimX nursing VR
A nursing simulation in SimX

Virtual reality can also be used to streamline the onboarding process. Programs like SimX offer realistic training simulations in virtual reality that can cut down on training costs, as well as the time it takes to train new medical personnel. SimX is versatile too, having programs for EMS, nursing, and military deployed medicine. The training simulation can also be modified on the fly, making it extremely adaptable to a wide variety of use cases.

These are only a few of the ways that virtual and augmented reality have the potential to be indispensable tools for the healthcare industry. There are plenty more applications in addition to these, like programs for physical rehabilitation, or programs that help children with autism learn how to process social and