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How Augmented Reality in Healthcare Education Makes Studying and Practice More Effective

Yura Velichko
27 Jan 2022
5 min
How Augmented Reality in Healthcare Education Makes Studying and Practice More Effective

Augmented reality is a leading trend in medical education and training and for good reason. First, augmented reality (AR) is booming: AR Insider estimated that there will be 1.73 billion active AR devices by 2024, three times more than in 2020. Second, the technology unlocks new opportunities for the education and medical field in particular.

This article explores the benefits of augmented reality in healthcare education and runs you through the most common use cases. So let’s get started!

What’s augmented reality?

Augmented reality enhances real-world experiences by superimposing a virtual layer with digital objects or interactive information. AR involves real-environment 3D modeling that you can interact with using an AR-compatible device, like a smartphone or tablet. Take an Instagram filter as an example: with its help, you can change your appearance (a 3D model of your face) by adding makeup, changing your hair color, or adding elements like glasses or cat ears. 

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    Main benefits of AR in healthcare education

    Rigorous healthcare education should include both comprehensive theory and sufficient practical training. Teachers can make instruction more efficient by adding an AR touch to traditional, theory-focused, text-heavy approaches.

    AR makes complex medical theory easier to digest and enables simulation-based learning, adds a strong focus on practical skills, and tests students’ ability to work under pressure.

    Here are some benefits that educational institutions unlock with AR:

    • Improved efficiency. AR technology simplifies complex topics by adding visuals to the text-rich content. AR creates an immersive experiential environment that boosts students’ engagement and interest when used for practical training. As a result, students understand information better and concentrate better during classes. 
    • Increased accessibility. AR technologies remove geographical barriers and allow students to access training remotely any time they need to practice. Unlike virtual reality (VR), used to create an entirely digital environment, AR doesn’t require students to have special equipment; they can access AR via their smartphones. 
    • More realistic experiences without risks. AR is used to recreate dangerous situations and give realistic impressions without putting actual patients at risk. Students use advanced AR solutions to practice on virtual patients configured to simulate hundreds of health conditions. 
    • Enhanced personalization. Paired with machine learning algorithms and analytics tools, AR systems can monitor student performance and generate comprehensive reports with a personalized analysis of students’ weak and strong skills. Teachers can use these reports to provide more specific feedback to students or configure AR applications to help students practice their weaker skills. 
    • Optimized cost-effectiveness. Contrary to common belief, investing in AR reduces costs. With AR, there’s reduced need for anatomy theaters, cadavers, and mannequins for practice. According to PwC, if you have 3,000 students, adopting VR is 52% less expensive than maintaining a classroom. Your AR costs will be even lower, considering that all you need to run AR applications are laptops or smartphones.

    AR enhances medical education in many ways that benefit both trainees and teachers. But seeing is believing, so let’s take a closer look at the most common examples of augmented reality for medical education.

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    Augmented reality in healthcare education: top 4 use cases

    The COVID-19 pandemic has facilitated the use of technologies in healthcare, and we’re  now witnessing widespread adoption of AR. Here are four common use cases of AR in medical training. 

    Learning anatomy 

    Human anatomy is one of the most demanding courses in medical education and the most common use case of AR technology. AR applications allow students to interact with a digital human body. Students can explore the body from all angles in 3D, learn a wide range of individual variations and pathologies, and remove or add anatomical structures with a few mouse clicks.

    The Human Anatomy Atlas is an example of how AR can enhance anatomy learning. This feature-rich solution allows students to explore an animated 3D model of the human body, see how it moves, view medical animations of pathologies, and even create and share learning flashcards. 

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    Practicing surgery

    Before the AR era, students practiced on mannequins and cadavers to train precision motor skills. But this training didn’t recreate conditions in an operating room. Today, AR technology can create virtual patients and environments, offering a more immersive experience. Students can practice different scenarios and see how the virtual patients respond to the students’ actions. Also, cameras embedded in the mannequins can record simulation videos that can be used to analyze the student’s performance later.

    Medicalholodeck, another example of virtual and augmented reality in medical education, is a solution consisting of several applications designed for both professional surgery teams and medical students to plan surgeries, simulate labs, and learn or review anatomy.

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    Assisting mentors remotely during emergencies

    More often than not, accident victims with acute conditions that require immediate action cannot receive expedient professional help, especially when an accident happens in a remote area. People without medical education often have to provide emergency aid relying on guesswork, and even paramedics may not have the knowledge to address some emergent situations. At medical institutions, a needed specialist may not be on duty or the institution may lack a provider with expertise in a particular specialty altogether.

    AR allows qualified specialists to consult remotely and instruct those who are caring for patients in such situations. For example, a doctor from Seattle recently guided a surgical team nearly 5,000 miles away, using the AR platform Proximie.

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    Training first responders

    AR offers more opportunities when it comes to emergency response training for medical and nonmedical personnel. Paramedics, police, and firefighters arrive at emergency sites first, and they need to be empowered to provide first aid confidently and quickly.

    Trainers can use AR to recreate emergencies: instead of seeing mannequins, trainees can see virtual patients with applications like PerSim, developed by medtech startup MedCognition. PerSim is easily configured to simulate various health conditions: it can simulate sweat, sounds, and various vital signs like respiration rate.

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    This isn’t a comprehensive list of all possible AR use cases in healthcare education. As technology advances, we’ll see more examples of healthcare education drifting away from traditional learning approaches and embracing innovation.

    Making medical education more accessible with AR

    AR brings many benefits to healthcare education, so it’s no wonder adoption continues to grow among educators and trainers. By delivering a more realistic experience, AR increases students’ interest in their training and makes medical education more effective. Moreover, AR helps medical institutions and schools reduce training costs.

    If you decide to unlock these benefits and invest in developing an AR-powered application for medical training, let’s do it together! At Postindustria, with over 14 years dedicated to development, we know how to deliver AR solutions that meet your needs. 

    Give your project a jumpstart — contact us today!

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