A new report indicates that the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) market in healthcare is poised to reach nearly $9.7 billion in the next 5 years. This particular niche is currently worth around $2.7 billion, indicating that it will grow approximately 3.5 times by 2027.
There are many drivers of this phenomenon. Most notably, AR and VR have the potential to enable a variety of new modalities in healthcare, from how physicians and other medical professionals are trained, to increasing their ability to practice medicine through telehealth and telemedicine. In fact, technology has allowed an entirely new perspective on the practice of medicine.
Many companies have already started to capitalize on this technology and the potential applications it has for healthcare. I previously wrote about how AR and VR are “the next frontier” for healthcare; this notion continues to be rejuvenated with increased interest and investment in the metaverse. A prominent example is Meta’s Reality Labs project to bring “touch to the virtual world”. The project resulted in the creation of advanced haptic gloves that allow the wearer to feel the sensation virtually as if it were reality. In fact, this realism is almost the final step in the bridge between the virtual and the real world.
As this technology continues to be perfected, the applications remain endless. As far as education is concerned, this technology will enable quality education, not limited by the limits of physical resources or proximity. The virtual world will also allow for more collaboration. Given the realism that AR and VR make possible, it will soon be possible for professionals to interact with each other and with patients in real time, even being able to perform procedures or physical examinations as appropriate. Some of this collaborative work is already being done with Microsoft’s Hololens platform, one of the most robust AR/VR systems in the world.
What are the cons? On the one hand, increasing reliance on technology always creates vulnerability. How will developers ensure security and privacy as patient data is increasingly transmitted digitally and in the cloud? Furthermore, healthcare, by definition, is a humanistic profession. By replacing physical reality with virtual and augmented reality technology, is the healthcare field doing itself a disservice by eliminating the personal aspect of the doctor-patient relationship?
In fact, there are still many things to be fully deciphered regarding this technology, including its security, privacy, and effectiveness in patient care. However, if done correctly and safely, it can potentially change the next generation of healthcare.