The last 15 years have seen a phenomenal change in the way we work, communicate, shop, explore and generally go about our everyday lives. And the technological transformation is far from over. The same technology that gave us the Googles, Facebooks, innumerable mobile apps and cloud platforms of the world is now set to save human lives. While the past few years have seen tremendous innovations in the field of healthcare, 2016 has been one of the biggest years for medical IT. Prominent among those include apps driving interoperability between healthcare systems, remote patient monitoring, robotic nurse assistants, electronic underwear to prevent bed sores and anti-aging drugs. However, the technology that has truly been in the spotlight for transforming the healthcare and medical industry is Augmented Reality, or AR. AR offers a seamless connection between the virtual and the real world, making it the ideal tool to be used for a range of healthcare applications, equipment and treatment procedures.
AR for Complex Medical Machine Maintenance
Most medical equipment today is highly sophisticated, feature-rich and has a combination of advanced electronics and software, making it increasingly complex. Thus, any operational or functional failure of such medical equipment can be difficult and expensive to detect, troubleshoot or repair. While in a normal industrial scenario such downtimes mean financial or productivity losses, in the healthcare sector it can even mean loss of precious human lives. It is in such situations that technologies like AR can enable easy and accurate tracking of equipment failures enabling quick repair, and curbing costs and increasing efficiency. In a non-AR scenario, repairing or troubleshooting such machines typically involves calling upon service technicians who rely upon large printed manuals, installation guides or maintenance manuals to repair the fault. Often if the problem is too complex, these field service technicians may need to consult experts or engineers who may be distantly located. This going back and forth may further lengthen the repairing or troubleshooting process, aggravating the inconvenience for the clinic or hospital team.
Conversely, with AR, this process can pan out differently and flawlessly. During servicing of the machine, service technicians will just need a mobile phone or a smartglass that can convert plain text or image into an interactive audio-visual that gives a real feel of the machine with intricate details clearly labeled and explained. The technician needs to then punch in the nature of error to see the repair process played “live” in front of him, making it the ideal tutorial. Apart from this, field technicians can remotely connect with experts back at the office to collaborate on the status of the machine. Both can collaborate through on-site video feeds, annotate on top of the shared videos and communicate through an audio call, all at once, ensuring that the field technician does not have to schedule another visit and can complete all troubleshooting and maintenance work in one go. It is estimated that AR can reduce installation and maintenance time by up to 30%, with 20% fewer errors in setup and repair and up to a 70% reduction in travel for field technicians—all of which eventually contributes to reducing cost for the medical facility.
AR: A Win-Win for Medical and Tech Organizations
For a critical segment like healthcare, AR’s multi-pronged benefits make it a natural fit for medical centers and healthcare technology professionals. For hospitals, it minimizes time, cost and resources needed to maintain complex systems and mechanisms, while for the service technicians and professionals it closes the service-knowledge gap effectively. Moreover, technology companies can maintain a much smaller team of service technicians that can handle a range of equipment instead of having dedicated resources for specific equipment and machines.
While a few years back, AR and VR were a target of great scepticism due to a dearth of useful healthcare apps, heavy and unfashionable smartglasses, HMDs and poor quality graphics; 2016 has seen things come a full circle with AR and VR coming back strongly to change the face of all industries and enterprises. Today, the healthcare industry is leading the pack as one of the earliest adopters of AR technology.
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