Augmented and Virtual Reality in Medicine

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are revolutionizing the field of medicine. In 2018, the global AR healthcare market was valued at $609.60 million. However, a recent Goldman-Sachs report predicts that the AR healthcare market will be worth around $5.1 billion, with nearly 3.4 million users across the world, by 2025.

The use of mixed reality in healthcare is helping doctors and surgeons visualize and interact with 3D representations of the human anatomy and improve precision in their medical procedures. 

Applications of AR and VR in Medicine and Surgery

AR is widely used in medicine, in various applications. These include medical training, pre-surgical assessment, and minimally invasive surgery. Mixed reality displays are increasingly being used in operating rooms as surgical planning tools and real-time guides to help doctors during surgery.

The Microsoft HoloLens headset is a fitting example. It projects images from pre-operative CT scans or MRIs holographically through a head-mounted display and couples with ultrasound and electromagnetic tracking devices. Another example is the ImmersiveView™ platform from ImmersiveTouch. It generates 3D replicas from patient scans and allows surgeons to study and collaborate with their team on surgical tactics.

Telementoring is also a popular application of AR in medicine, where it allows surgeons to collaborate with and seek guidance from experts during a medical procedure. Eventually, AR and VR technologies may also help build cadaver-free labs in medical schools. 

Future Prospects of AR and VR in Healthcare

Mixed reality is still a novelty in the healthcare realm. However, it has the potential to completely transform medicine and surgery. Affordability and disparities in resources (such as lack of access to 5G networks) are major barriers to wider use of AR and VR in the healthcare sector.

Despite tremendous strides made in medical applications of AR and VR over the past decade, there is still a lot of room for improvement. With the FDA approving more and more mixed reality-based products for use in medicine, a paradigm shift is underway in several aspects of medical care. Moreover, growing investment in these technologies and an increasing number of AR/VR-based startups will boost the growth of AR and VR in the global healthcare market. 

In the meantime, collecting feedback on the usefulness of AR/VR and providing education to key stakeholders such as surgeons and other healthcare professionals will be key to ensure uptake.


Want to learn more about VR & AR?

Check out my recent article on AR & VR in Pharma, as well as our recent Fireside Chats with experts in the field:

Medical Modeling in Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality in Medicine and Clinical Research

Three-dimensional Planning for Precision Medicine

VR/AR Applications for Training and Healthcare

Therapeutic VR for Managing Pain & Improving Patient Outcomes

AI, VR, and Gamification in Mobile Health