Extended Reality: Transforming the Healthcare Industry - Brillio
                           Sushmita January 30, 2023

The global healthcare sector has gone through an upheaval in the last two years owing to the worldwide pandemic outbreak. Moreover, there were numerous vulnerabilities that pre-existed in the healthcare sector as well. Since then, a paradigm shift has been observed in this industry with the increased penetration of Extended Reality Technologies, also known as XR technologies.

Extended Reality merges human and computer-generated graphic interactions that exist in the real and virtual world to deliver an immersive experience to the users. It incorporates Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR). Healthcare organizations are continuously building their capabilities in XR in areas like medical training, surgical support, pain management, mental health, etc.

Concurrently, there has been increased attention from investors, and the global market size of XR in the healthcare industry is expected to reach $19.6 billion by 2030 with an annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26.88%, according to a report by Precedence Research[i].

Driving factors of growth for Extended Reality in the Healthcare Industry

Undoubtedly, the healthcare sector has observed several breakthroughs after the pandemic, of which Extended Reality has proved to be of great potential. There are a few factors that are driving the growth of extended reality in the market exponentially.

  • Better insights on patient information:Smart glasses and AR can be used to access patients’ information in real-time. Doctors can view the detailed vital signs of the patient without switching to a monitor or report every time. Technology can be used to even streamline surgical procedures, improving surgeons’ precision and reducing mental stress. The first ever AR-guided surgery happened in Bologna in 2020, where the surgeon used an AR headset to access all the critical data like heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate along with pre-operative images from CT scan, MRI and 3DUS scans of the patient, proved to be a great success[ii].
  • Scalability:Physical simulations need resources like time, money, or faculty to provide training. XR tackles these resource constraints to enable flexible learning. It enhances cost savings and portability and makes unsupervised learning possible. These scale up the operations to meet the ever-increasing demands with limited resources.
  • Improving patient experience:Extended Reality tends to revolutionize patients’ experience in their whole clinical journey by providing a walkthrough of human anatomy that gives a fair understanding of the treatment plan for patients. Another area where XR adds substantial value in improving patient care is pain relief and mental health disorders where it can act as a diversion for the patients.
  • Bringing Digital Twin to Life: Digital twin is another booming technology that is affecting the technological landscape of the healthcare sector. It is a virtual model of a physical object, process, or ecosystem fed with up-to-date data of its real-world counterpart. XR tools intertwined with Digital twin enables proactive and accurate decision-making, patient-care optimization, and process improvisation in healthcare areas. Doctors can interact with the digital twin of the patient to simulate potential treatments and predict possible outcomes for patients.It creates immersive experiences for patients and providers that assist in drug discovery, diagnosis, clinical trials, and surgical planning.

Use Cases of Extended Reality in the Healthcare Sector

Immersive technologies are gradually gaining traction because of the ease of access, precision, and personal care that they can provide. The continued innovative research and growth are supported by an improved internet infrastructure, computer technology, and affordable computing hardware across the world. There are five top use cases where extended reality is being used to deliver patient-centric solutions.

  1. Clinical Mental Health: 13% of the world population is suffering from mental health issues, according to a report by SingleCare in 2022[iii]. Immersive technologies can be utilized for the diagnosis, treatment, and management of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias, and anxiety disorder. The therapist can control the patient’s environment along with the extent and intensity of exposure and capture the patient’s responses as well. XR technologies also have the potential to address the increased need for mental health support, especially after Covid-19, by providing remote treatment to patients.
  2. Pain management: Extended reality can be leveraged to create a simulated scenario with visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory interaction which distracts the patients from acute pain and distress. In clinical settings, VR forms an illusion that exhibits lesser pain and shortens the length of pain. This can be an alternative option to prescribing painkillers and painful medical procedures.
  3. Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation: Virtual pharmacy approach proves to be a pioneering step in the rehabilitation of a patient in the healthcare industry. The users are involved in an intriguing virtual scenario through a VR head-mounted display. This digital intervention allows patients to exercise remotely at their own convenience, and the patients’ responses can also be tracked by VR system tracking sensors. These therapeutic procedures have a higher level of engagement with the patients and demonstrate a better success rate in terms of quicker rehabilitation.
  4. Workforce education and clinical skills: The type of pedagogy that has been majorly followed in medical schools has been teacher-centric where lab experiments have also been an integral part. However, the global pandemic posed a problem of nationwide lockdowns which disrupted the regular ways of teaching and training. Here’s where extended reality technologies came into the picture to deliver experiential learning in a risk-free environment that is cost-effective and easily accessible.

XR helps to build “Simulation-based education” which enables experiential and collaborative learning methods and delivers clinical skills training outside of hospital environments. Research suggests that students develop good eye-hand coordination using precise medical instruments in AR. Another major area of skill training is surgery, where AR and VR both can be employed to create complex yet risk-free clinical surgical situations. Surgeons can visualize critical data prior to and during surgical procedures. A step ahead is remote surgery which is also possible through XR. A surgeon’s movement at one place can be replicated in real-time by robotic equipment at another place.

As we evaluate the future opportunities for immersive technologies, it is imperative for organizations to be aware of the challenges related to the huge initial investment, data privacy, cyber-attacks, and less adoption rate. Irrespective of the current challenges, it is evident that extended reality technologies are going to totally transform the healthcare sector that caters to the patient’s needs. The good news is that patients expect proactive, seamless, and affordable personalized care and healthcare organizations are complimenting the same by thinking ahead of the curve and thriving to deliver the best patient-centric solutions embracing the new-age technologies.

About the Author



Working as a consultant, Platform & Product Engineering at Brillio. Business and Presales Consultant, MBA graduate from T.A Pai management Institute with a major in Marketing and minors in Information Technology. Have an overall industry experience of 3+ years. Experience in Business Development, stakeholder management, collateral management, and Industry analysis.

Let’s create something brilliant together!

Let's Connect