The era in which we live shows us a close link between technology and medicine. Computer science as its derivative branches has allowed professionals in this sector to have certain innovation tools such as Augmented Reality to perform their skills quickly and effectively. The term does not arise until 1992 even though since the 1970s the first incursions into virtual worlds were already made. This technology begins to be applied in several fields although it is that of video games and advertising that have more development.
A couple of years ago, augmented reality became fashionable all over the world at the hands of Pokemon Go. These Japanese cartoons were reinvented with a video game that, through the mobile phone, gave you the possibility to meet the most popular characters of this saga by any area of your city. It was enough to walk around the Rambla or Park Güell to find players focusing with their smartphone to nothing, trying to “capture” these little creatures that the rest did not see, but that they had on the screen of their mobile.
The latest edition of the most important technology fair in the world, CES 2019, served to confirm that augmented reality will be one of the technologies that will take on greater prominence this year. A prediction shared by the International Data Corporation (IDC), which foresees that the market for this type of projections (together with virtual reality ) will increase this year by 130%, to almost reach 13.9 billion dollars. The health sector will be one of those that will surely absorb part of this growth, taking into account the possibilities that this type of immersive technology provides for doctors and patients.
It is convenient before showing examples of its application in the field of health, to differentiate the augmented reality from the virtual one. And although they are similar terms, its operation and result are quite different. Thus, while augmented reality adds artificial elements to a real scenario, the virtual one creates its scenarios that do not combine with physical elements. In both cases, the final scenery is immersive and interactive.
Augmented reality consists of incorporating additional information to a device (from a mobile phone to glasses) that is capturing reality through your camera. The user looks through the viewfinder of your device you have around and augmented reality is to bring you information of value about what you are seeing even allowing you to interact.
Because of its characteristics, augmented reality is presented as a great help technology for psychological treatments. A good example is phobia treatments because it allows those affected to be exposed to their fears through real projections with which to interact. This is the spider phobia treatment system developed by Phobos Center in Spain, where situations with spiders are simulated in the physical world to treat the patient’s fear of these animals.
There are various applications of augmented reality linked to the treatment of diseases or uses in the health sector, which we will classify as:
Augmented reality is very useful for promoting medical training through simulators that help to improve the accuracy of surgeons. In this line, the new version of Google Glass is positioned as the most prominent device or wearable for professionals. An illustrative example can be found at the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, which has led one of its surgeon professors to broadcast an operation live to their students using these smart glasses.
The company, Dignity Health is leading the way in using Google glasses: his doctors use them to transcribe their conversations automatically with patients, including the option of taking pictures. The result has been the reduction of the time dedicated by doctors to these transcripts and other administrative tasks, which previously occupied a third of their working hours and, now, only 10%. Although patients are informed of the use of these glasses, they flash with a very evident light when they record or are taking a picture.
Holograms for Anatomy Lectures
Microsoft glasses also offer multiple medical possibilities. The HoloLens offers the possibility of seeing reality superimposed holograms and interact with them. And the company CAE Healthcare is the first that takes advantage of its potential to guide it to medical simulation using VimedixAR, with which medical students can examine the 3D anatomy of a dummy.
Augmented reality provides a new channel that improves learning by providing other insights on knowledge. A good example is books that, through mobile applications, allow you to see parts of the anatomy in 3D.
An example would be VR Dentist which is a dental application that uses virtual and augmented reality for educational purposes for dentists in training. The application allows visualizing models and dentures in 360 degrees.
Help in Diagnosis
e-LISA.shoulder is a digital app with augmented reality to help orthopedic surgeons minimize errors in the diagnostic process and surgery. In e-LISA.shoulder there are virtual services of preoperative planning and 3D printing of fractures. With it, you can watch a video of complex surgical operations and animated graphics based on real cases. The e-LISA team conducts scientific research to develop mathematical algorithms and models. In this way, it standardizes the trauma that affects the joints.
Visualization of clinical data
Applications whose objective is the agile viewing of clinical data through ultrasound, tomography images, obtaining a more accurate view of these data, being able to improve diagnoses and facilitate decision making for possible surgical interventions.
For example “AccuVein AV400” helps healthcare professionals locate the veins of patients with greater precision. Digitally displays a map of the vasculature on the surface of the skin in real-time, allowing doctors to verify the permeability of the veins and avoid valves or bifurcations.
Augmented reality can improve surgery allowing the preparation of the same with patient data and previously try various techniques to choose the most convenient. In turn, it can guide and mark relevant information during the development of the operation, achieving more effective and less invasive surgeries.
The advanced surgical navigation platform (SNAP) allows doctors to show their “plans” for surgery. The SNAP is associated with standard working room route frameworks and gives propelled imaging capacities, including numerous 3D shots that enable specialists to see their case both from the perspective of a microscope and with another view from behind the tumor.
Therapy and Rehabilitation
Augmented reality has a clear application in tests for the diagnosis of diseases, the treatment of phobias and the support and incentive in rehabilitation, generating virtual and safe situations.
An example would be a rehabilitation system that allows managing rehabilitation exercises for patients but without feeling that they are between the 4 walls of a hospital, but could find themselves in a gym and see their progress. The system records the evolution of the treatment and the performance of the exercises.
Help to special groups:
Augmented reality can be a great ally for the integration of the disabled in real life which makes them less dependent beings. For example with the LookTel application.
The development of telecare increases the patient’s quality of life and its control.
Sometimes explaining to a child what kind of illness he has, its consequences, and his new life habits are complicated. Augmented reality can help us create a partner who through the game helps the patient to better assimilate the information.
Patient support programs
Getting a chronic or long-term patient to follow the indicated treatment is not as easy as it seems. To carry out adequate adherence, augmented reality can help motivate the patient at times of possible abandonment.
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