As the pandemic continues to unfurl, several healthcare providers are looking towards virtual and augmented reality tools to establish a connection with patients and strive for more personalized care, especially in situations where physical contact must be minimum.

The technologies are able to simulate a totally immersive experience (VR) or incorporate sensory elements in a live world setting (AR).

Until now, the platforms were restricted to niche applications like patient education before a surgical procedure but the applications of these technologies are growing exponentially as medical professionals look to new technologies to adapt to the realities of COVID-19.

Market experts suggest that virtual and augmented reality in healthcare is expected to reach $2.4 billion by 2026 as the applications of these technologies expand to cover pain management, memory care and medical training as well as other new applications.

Let’s look at a few ways AR and VR are impacting healthcare:

VR Enables Medical Immersion Facilitating A Range Of Patient Needs.
Healthcare consumers have already experienced AR and VR in some form or another. VR headsets or AR glasses are an easy and effective starting point for those that haven’t yet experienced the technologies first hand.

As patients are recommended to stay in isolation, healthcare organizations are considering increasing VR programs for self-guided rehabilitation exercises and addressing chronic pain. As a result, virtual care or hybrid models of in-person and virtual care will most likely be commonplace from here on. For instance, a VR headset can be transferred from a physical therapy patient to an expecting mother in labor to serve as a visual distraction.

Using AR and VR Tools for Detailed Surgery Preparation and Efficiency
Providing care isn’t the sole benefit of using these technologies. Currently, VR and AR technologies are being increasingly used in operating rooms and classrooms to help surgeons prepare for the role ahead.

This suggests that the next generation of technology will focus on creating efficiencies in delivering complex care. For instance, instead of showing a patient an X-ray and informing them about the procedure vocally, we can show them a 3D model of what will happen during the operation and how it will look after.

Addressing Disparities to Expand VR Programs in Healthcare
One key limitation of the widespread adoption of AR and VR in healthcare is the access to 5G networks and 5G enabled devices. General disparities in resources may place some healthcare institutions behind the curve.

There still isn’t a strong case against cost savings in using AR and VR in providing virtual care and chronic disease management, but that could change as more data and research regarding the technologies comes to light.

As healthcare institutions recognize the benefits and cost savings that are possible through using virtual care platforms, they will be more willing to invest in these technologies and adopt them as a part of their routine care plans.