By Anastasia Yaskevich, ScienceSoft
Realizing the great value of AR for in-patients and health professionals, we list some of the features that augmented reality apps for hospital care can include.
Having first appeared in the entertainment industry, augmented reality had its potential underestimated by other sectors for a long time. However, letting the ideas that started out as some sort of fun reform and serve other purposes is, basically, the definition of progress. Fortunately, many valuable advantages of augmented reality for various industries are starting to shine through now. According to ISACA, around 70 percent of today’s consumers see clear benefits of using AR in their work and daily life.
What’s even better, augmented reality concepts are now a lot easier to implement. After the introduction of ARCore and ARKit – tools for AR development on mobile – in summer-autumn 2017, more and more AR products and prototypes are brought into the public eye. Statista says that in 2018 the installs of apps with embedded AR and standalone AR apps will amount to 1.589 million and 888.2 million respectively, as opposed to 340.8 million and 690.3 million in 2016.
With how complex healthcare is and how accurate each of the related procedures has to be, technology has always been indispensable for the industry, even though it’s adopted with more caution than anywhere else. To quote ISACA’s survey again, 62 percent of the U.S. respondents believe that healthcare is one of the top industries augmented reality can be useful for.
In this article, we focus on the concepts of augmented reality apps for hospitals and the features that can help both patients and doctors. Real life examples of AR apps for healthcare already exist, and we mention some of them here.
Even a minor task performed by healthcare professionals has to be as accurate as possible from the very first attempt. This requires skill, but skill only comes with practice. AR can guarantee effective practice and, at the same time, correct procedure performance.
For one, an augmented reality app for nurses can capture a patient’s wound and, while displaying it, virtually add the images of applying a bandage. Alternatively, an AR app can show the exact layout of a patient’s veins (similar to the AccuVein device) on the screen thus helping to make an injection.
Such features are indispensable for entry-level specialists. Yet, experienced healthcare professionals can benefit from them too. AR can guide a nurse who has to perform a rare procedure, which is difficult to sharpen skills for, or a doctor who normally has some task done by their assistant but, due to an emergency, has to do it on their own.
As the ‘Patient Tracking’ section of this article says, a doctor doesn’t have to bury themselves in EHR print-outs or hand-written notes anymore; a mobile app can be a compact outlet for detailed patient information. With its help, a healthcare professional will immediately see a clinical record, vitals, as well as the latest lab results displayed on the screen of their smart glasses or tablet right at the start of the appointment.
The key here is a visual trigger, such as an individual barcode image or a QR code on in-patients’ hospital wristbands. After scanning the code, the app will automatically gather all the relevant information about the patient and push it onto the screen of a mobile device. This will make doctors’ rounds more effective and will give them more time on personal communication with their patients.
Healthcare professionals may sometimes find it difficult to talk in plain terms and can’t be always sure patients understand them. The risks of miscommunication are even higher when a doctor is explaining the processes behind a serious disease or plans for a surgery: not only are such details complex, but also a patient can’t keep up with the information flow because of the stress.
Augmented reality can help doctors support their explanations with a live simulation that shows all the involved processes at work. Thanks to the interactive nature of AR, a healthcare professional can tailor the simulation of a patient’s individual case to the tiniest detail. Surgeons can even create different disease scenarios and add their own sequences of surgical procedures to prove their meaningfulness to a patient and give them a clear image of what the surgery will be like.
AR can serve as a hospital GPS system for both in-patients and their visitors. First, a user inputs the destination – say, the number of a room the patient stays in or a lab where a certain procedure has to be performed. The app then calculates a route and, while displaying the actual surroundings captured by the camera lens on the screen, adds virtual navigation arrows on an additional layer.
Hospital stays can be especially stressful for some people. Patients in critical condition can develop symptoms of depression, while kids, people on the autism spectrum and mentally ill patients can face acute anxiety or even panic attacks caused by an unknown environment. Their mental state often isn’t the primary reason of their stay, but it certainly shouldn’t be ignored.
By introducing gamification elements, AR apps help to distract such patients from their stressful thoughts. Using a mobile device with a hospital AR app, patients can explore the hospital grounds with the help of virtual companions, receive achievement badges for completing certain tasks, and even talk to a hospital’s smart AI bot. The Liverpool children’s hospital app is the successful realization of this concept.
With the current opioid epidemic, both doctors and patients are looking for better ways of relieving pain. Technology makes no pretense to being a silver bullet, yet in some particular cases, it can be a good distractive therapy.
A VR app for burn pain relief called SnowWorld has already proved to be twice as effective as morphine. The concept can be made more compact if implemented in a mobile AR app that will put realistically chilly ice cubes on a bandaged burn. If a patient uses smart glasses, they can have an even more immersive experience and hence – blunt the edge of the pain for sure.
Augmented reality apps for hospital care can have rich functionality to aid health professionals in their daily work and make patients’ hospital stay more comfortable. Installed on smartphones or smart glasses, AR apps can facilitate and improve doctor-patient communication, ensure accuracy of certain procedures, help patients adjust to the new environment, and even relieve their pain.
Anastasia Yaskevich is an Enterprise Mobility Researcher at ScienceSoft, an IT consulting company headquartered in McKinney, Texas. She started out in IT with research on cloud computing and UI design, and now writes on mobile technology and mobile design trends. With her interest in psychology and experience in managing employee satisfaction surveys, Anastasia taps in HR-related technologies and overviews the concepts of mobile HRM applications.