i3 | November 17, 2020

The AR-VR Age has Begun in Health Care

Murray Slovick

If you think of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) only in terms of video games, think again. The global AR and VR digital health care market was estimated at $960 million in 2019 and is expected to reach $1.2 billion this year, according to Grand View Research. Projecting further, Reports and Data predicts the market for AR/VR in health care will reach over $7 billion by 2026.

With COVID limiting physical interaction, virtual communication is the new normal, concludes a new IDTechEx report, Optics and Displays in AR, VR, and MR (mixed reality, the merging of real and virtual worlds) 2020-2030. By 2030, IDTechEx predicts the augmented, virtual and mixed reality optics and display markets will total over $28 billion.

By way of review, AR overlays, or augments, what you see in real life with location-specific information and graphics. 

VR uses headsets to let wearers see, hear and interact with a 360-degree simulation that replaces the user’s real-world environment. The user is immersed in a three-dimensional world in which they can interact. For example, founder of Osso VR, Dr. Justin Barad, built out the first prototype of what is now the leading VR solution used for training and assessing surgeons, sales teams and hospital staff.

We are witnessing a new AR/VR wave in health care aimed at reducing costs and saving lives. 

AR and VR in Health Care

Being able to place minimally invasive spinal instrumentation accurately reduces surgical time and complication risk. Augmedics’ xvision Spine system (XVS) is the first AR navigation system to be used in spinal surgery. Johns Hopkins University surgeons recently used XVS to place six screws in a patient’s spine to fuse three vertebrae to relieve the patient’s back pain. XVS allows surgeons to visualize their patients’ 3D spinal anatomy through skin and tissue during surgery to accurately navigate instruments and implants while looking directly at the patient, rather than a remote screen. The navigation data is projected onto the surgeon’s retina using a headset. Augmedics has received the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 510(k) clearance for its AR headset for surgical procedures.

Establishing intravenous (IV) access (finding a vein) can be challenging. On average, it takes two to three attempts to establish a patent peripheral IV site (source: National Institutes of Health). The AccuVein Vein Finder is a portable device using vein visualization AR technology to help health care professionals locate veins for safe and efficient IV access, improving first attempt success by 98%. Vein visualization uses near-infrared (NIR) imaging creating a visual map. The AccuVein employs two lasers: an invisible infrared and a visible red laser providing a real-time image of the subcutaneous vasculature up to 10mm deep. The result is a visual projection that has center line accuracy of less than the width of a human hair.

At the Imperial College Healthcare (NHS Trust) hospital in London doctors are wearing Microsoft Hololens headsets with Dynamics 365 Remote Assist while working with COVID patients. Microsoft Teams software enables a secure live video feed to be sent to a computer screen in a nearby room, allowing health care teams to see everything the doctor treating COVID-19 patients can see, while remaining at a safe distance. As a result, fewer clinicians are in a high-risk area during patient care reducing staff time by 83%.

The Surgical Rehearsal Platform (SRP) technology (aka “surgical theater”) is a virtual reality tour through a complicated surgical procedure. The technology helps surgeons practice the procedure before heading into the surgical suite. The pediatric neuro-and cardiac surgery programs at the The St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa are using it to create patient models and provide pediatric surgeons with a detailed planning tool. The program fuses and enhances CT and MRI images to create a 360-degree virtual model of a patient’s anatomy.GO ONLINE: CTA’s AR/VR Working Group supports the growth of companies developing technologies and services for the augmented, mixed and virtual reality segment of the technology industry. 

Visit: CTA.tech/Membership/Member-Groups/XR-Working-Group

Learn about the latest digital health advances during CES2021.

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