AI and robotics are becoming more and more sophisticated at doing what previously were exclusively human actions. And they’re doing them at lower cost, more quickly and more efficiently.
This offers vast potential to many sectors, and AI will increasingly play a transformative part, particularly in the future of healthcare. In the aftermath of the pandemic, this is an area only likely to expand,
Take telemedicine: the real-time, two-way communication, remote diagnosis and treatment of patients, through electronic telecommunications technology such as video, computer, phone and messaging services. Virtual health can be supported through telemedicine consultations. AI platforms can be used to help manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol remotely, through apps.
Fundamentally, the idea is to reduce unnecessary in-person visits through virtual visits and virtual clinicians. Virtual assistants can even be used to help manage or screen patients before a medical professional becomes involved, streamlining the process and saving time and costs.
One way in which medical VR can be used is by utilising VR content to help rehabilitate people who have suffered a brain injury, or by using VR to diagnose and treat mental health conditions through activities, exercises and games.
A recent study suggests that some people with various types of physical pain felt more pain relief – particularly if the pain was more intense – when they had a VR experience than if they watched television. Another study suggested that having a VR experience during venipuncture (the procedure for taking blood using a needle) reduced anxiety and discomfort in children, and VR is already used as a treatment to manage post-traumatic stress disorder.
Surgeons are increasingly showing interest in using AR headsets as a way to look at the patient continually throughout the procedure, as well as to enhance surgical training – an area where AR and VR tools could quickly prove themselves to be invaluable.
Most recent developments in medical imaging technology focus on getting real-time information and data visualisation. Access to real-time 2D or 3D reconstructed images can make diagnosis and treatment more reliable and more rapid – especially during ongoing surgery. By adding an AR platform, improved surgical visualisation should reduce complications.
The future may see surgeons operating inside the patient using a combination of VR and robotics, as well as the emergence of 5G offering the possibility of surgery in remote areas. AR/VR technologies are becoming increasingly useful – and used – tools to help medical staff see and interact in new ways and improve patient outcomes.