Considering AR Solutions For The Healthcare Sector
Nick Cherukuri is Founder & CEO of ThirdEye. He was Forbes U30 and E&Y Enterpreneur of the Year finalist. Published patents & spoken at CES.
The metaverse has been a hot topic in the news lately. This term encompasses many technologies such as augmented, virtual and mixed reality. The power of this technology is that it can be applied to a variety of industries such as healthcare, enterprise and gaming.
For this article, we will focus on the healthcare industry, which is one of the largest potential use cases for AR tech, and the many points to consider before shifting over to this technology.
Considerations For AR Solutions In Healthcare
A Johns Hopkins study found that more than 250,000 Americans die every year from medical errors, making medical errors the third-leading cause of death in America after cancer and heart attacks. Determined to minimize medical errors and improve patient safety, AR technologies aim to provide doctors with immediate access to patients, assist first responders with treatment instructions, diagnose a patient’s current medical condition and interface directly with EMS.
Examining The Benefits
One strong consideration to make before deploying augmented reality is to research the before and after benefits of deploying the platform. Does using the technology provide a material benefit and strong ROI?
To analyze whether AR solutions are beneficial, one of the first questions you should ask is whether there is a need for hands-free digital operations to help improve operations and reduce training costs. For example, first responders may benefit from an AR solution since it would be efficient to have necessary digital information in their field of vision. On the other hand, something like home therapy may be tougher as this requires a physical doctor to be present where a virtual setting may not suffice.
Another example of AR’s effectiveness in healthcare is augmented reality remote surgery. Having precise digital overlays on top of the user helps enable faster operations and allows for remote telehealth in areas without access to the best doctors and improves training. The training staff element is also important, and all of these factors should be considered when evaluating whether to implement AR for your operations.
As this is a new technology, some staff may be apprehensive about spending time learning how to use it. It can help to remind employees that while additional training will be required to fully understand the equipment, it is intended to be advantageous for all parties, and implementation will likely become simpler as the technology grows within the industry.
Consider using easy tutorial materials and developer user interfaces that are intuitive. For example, in augmented reality, it is suggested that the user interface not be too clunky and allow the wearer to have a clear field of view. Ultimately, the goal should be to help people feel comfortable and prepared while using augmented reality technology.
Along with training, also consider the costs of deployment. The costs of an AR device can vary widely depending on the range of features and ruggedization needed with yearly software subscription costs.
For example, some devices require a phone to operate and will be much lower in cost since the phone offloads the processing and battery. Other devices are all-in-one smart glasses and may also have additional ruggedization, increasing the price tag.
When deciding which augmented reality device to use, you should also take into account whether you need it to be hands-free, waterproof or have other notable features. The cost-effectiveness will look different for each facility, but if the savings in training and travel amount to millions per year, then this capital expenditure can be worth it. The costs can also be spread out as operating expenditures over yearly leasing plans. This should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
AR features allow doctors and first responders to provide integrated, streamlined care, ultimately aiming to minimize medical mistakes. According to Premier Inc, the U.S. wastes $8.3 billion annually on avoidable ER visits. This in conjunction with the 40% of unnecessary ER transports contributes to the waste of socioeconomic resources in healthcare.
This technology can help decrease spending through video telehealth features that allow for communication with remote physicians in real time, allowing healthcare systems to allocate resources more efficiently. It can also improve patient outcomes (especially during emergencies where seconds make all the difference), allowing EMS to quickly interface directly with doctors, livestream emergencies and access pertinent patient medical records.
There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to implement augmented reality technology, especially in the vital healthcare space as outlined above. While healthcare has one of the most promising use cases of any industry, evaluating the cost-benefit analysis of deploying the technology is integral.