Augmented Reality
About half of the world’s population lacks adequate access to necessary health care services. Medical expenses become high enough for some families that they often only have $1.90 a day to survive on. However, recent advancements in medicine, medical practice and medical technology plan to improve the situation of hundreds of millions of global citizens. The advancement of incorporating augmented reality technology into surgery, training and research shows great promise in bettering the access and cost-efficiency of health care to impoverished people.

4 Ways Augmented Reality Improves Global Health

  1. Surgical Procedures: Ian Khan, a self-identified “technology futurist” and three-time TedX speaker, focuses on “helping other organizations create unlimited value through multiple avenues and create positive business outcomes.” In this context, he works to simplify complex technological advancements while simultaneously enhancing the reach and application of said technology in real-world settings. Kahn believes augmented reality has the potential to provide medical professionals with an opportunity to safely practice complex surgeries in preparation for performing those surgeries on actual human subjects. This will lead to an overall increased surgery success rate as well as a decrease in the amount of time necessary to train for difficult procedures. Stat News reports that a trial of the supposed miracle-kidney procedure, SYMPLICITY HTN-3, initially reported unsuccessful results. But these results could be inaccurate representations due to the fact that at least half of the physicians who performed the operation had only practiced that very procedure two times before. With today’s constantly evolving field of medical technology, physicians will have to put greater effort into practicing procedures before performing them officially. In this way, augmented reality can effectively provide harmless extra practicum opportunities to a learning surgeon anytime they require. This advancement of overall-increased preparedness is especially useful for high-intensity working environments, like the neighborhoods and cities many people in poverty find themselves in.
  2. Augmented Reality: The surgical technique has improved and can further improve dramatically thanks to updated applications of AR technology. Natacha Rousseau, a marketing and medical research specialist who works with digital health entities and co-owns Rousseau Lineares, stated that augmented reality will allow medical professionals to conduct major surgeries without making a large incision, which comes quite in handy in locations where improperly sanitized procedures can lead to disastrous side results like blood-borne diseases. Augmented reality software can link to specialized goggles for surgeons to wear in surgical use. These goggles will more visually and vividly highlight the regions of the body that a surgeon must avoid during operation. It can also pinpoint areas that they must directly address. In essence, there is more precision in this new style of surgical procedure than ever before.
  3. Medical Professional Training: Training medical professionals will become much more feasible. The time it has taken to prepare professionals for difficult circumstances to practice medicine has always been an obstacle for scientific advancement. But now, some have reimagined the concept of this training. Touch Surgery is one of many companies that have created hundreds of procedural simulations for medical students to follow. More professionals will now have a greater grasp of concepts that before took a great deal of time, guidance and resources to fully understand. Proximie is another advancement allowing surgeons-in-training to access live-streams of operations from thousands of miles elsewhere when in need of visual representation. Such training will help in bringing about balance in access to medical care around the world. With around 67 percent of the world’s citizens currently having access to surgery and only 3 percent of surgeries even occurring in impoverished nations, using technology to grow the span of medical care access is one step in the right direction.
  4. People Can Be Their Own Doctor: Various technology companies have already come out with medical utilities and tests people can conduct on themselves in the comfort of their homes. One group, CliniCloud, has already introduced the world’s first for-home-use stethoscope. In addition, obtaining and prescribing medication could not be simpler. One can handle these crucial parts of a doctor’s visit with a few taps of a smart device and ship or send the results to a pharmacy near a patient’s home. Patients can even access refills and renewed subscriptions with the same ease. By investing smart devices and augmented reality technology in impoverished nations to improve their access to at-home care as well as nearing their proximity to accessible medication, people in poverty can only stand to benefit from AR in medical practice.

As of 2018, the poorest one-third of the world’s population received a minuscule 3.5 percent of all surgeries worldwide.  As advancements in biomedical research continue to progress, medical professionals more resoundingly agree that surgical procedures must see an increase in accessibility if the quality of life is to improve–particularly in the world’s most impoverished regions. With further investment in the growth of equal health care access that augmented reality promises, countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia that have a history of record low surgical procedures (between 50-500 total per capita of 100,000 individuals) are sure to see incredible improvements in the health of their citizens for years to come.

Fatemeh Zahra Yarali
Photo: Flickr