They may be just entering medical school now, but the next generation of medical and dental professionals will be “digital natives” who never knew a world without smartphones. That could be all it takes to push VR and AR into mainstream, everyday healthcare practices. How soon we see this digital transformation is yet to be seen, but it surely gets us thinking about the possibilities.
Our top 3 future uses for AR and VR in mainstream healthcare:
1) VR for dentistry training
Much like flight simulations for pilots, dental simulations have long been present in dental schools. However, they’re extremely expensive and, traditionally, are more about screens and less about 360-degree, high-sensory VR experiences. Implementation of VR glasses could create a fully immersive environment with real instruments and real-time feedback for students. Compared to the costly simulator systems, VR could also reduce the cost substantially.
2) AR-enabled, real-time patient vitals
Healthcare professionals don’t always have the luxury of taking their eyes off the patient. We project that soon they’ll leverage medical-grade AR glasses to gain critical patient data, all while keeping focused on the patient.
Imagine a surgeon performing an operation while the patient’s vitals appear on the doctor’s AR glasses. When needed or requested, on-screen alerts can include blood pressure, pulse, respiratory rate, temperature, blood oxygen saturation and more.
3) Virtual, remote procedures
Imagine a prominent Beverly Hills surgeon performing life-saving surgery on a U.S. soldier who’s located overseas—without the doctor ever leaving The Hills. The surgeon dons a VR headset to gain a high-resolution, 360° view of the remote patient and robotic arms with a sensory system enable him to perform the surgery.
Although VR is currently used to train surgeons remotely, and robotic arms have become extremely accurate, we’ve yet to see the above scenario put into mainstream medical practice. However, thanks to VR and telesurgery technology, we aren’t far off from it becoming a game-changing tool for connecting patients with medical specialists in completely different geographic locations. Of course, the opportunities for remote healthcare go beyond the military example—think of any patient without the health or means required to travel. Is the next step unassisted robotic surgery—with no human intervention? Only time will tell.
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