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Are you prepared for augmented reality medicine?

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Augmented reality (AR) is a ground-breaking new technology that is set to take the life sciences industry by storm, in both primary and secondary healthcare settings and in the biotech/pharma business sector.

AR overlays digital content and 3D imaging onto real environments in real time, helping users experience immersive environments that assist in learning and performance. It introduces efficiencies to business processes, workflows and training; as it rolls out, expect personnel and hiring managers to receive it with open arms.

AR is moving fast

The global AR market is expected to reach a value of over $1.5bn by 2020, and analyst house Gartner has tipped AR to become an important tool in the workplace. As more companies leverage the technology, it will become a powerful part of the educational process. Life sciences companies are expected to ‘dip their toe in the water’ during 2018, experimenting with it to create vivid 3D presentations for healthcare audiences that will improve their learning and, not least, wow them.

Life sciences professionals are already witnessing the use of AR in medicine, with AccuVein, a hand-held scanner that illuminates veins on a patient’s skin, a minor foretaste of Microsoft’s imminently available HoloLens, which will overlay computerised axial tomography (CAT) scans onto the body. Training company Medical Realities is helping students ‘live’ surgical operations through the eyes of an experienced consultant, with clear implications for improved learning outcomes.

AR and workplace training

A Louis Harris poll reveals that only 12% of employees who considered their company offered excellent training opportunities planned to leave their job within a year, compared with 41% of those with poor training opportunities. This gives an indication of the role AR may play in both attracting and retaining candidates in the biotech/pharma sector, as the technology gains in popularity and number of applications. With the skills demanded of today’s workforce constantly evolving, openness to training and aptitude for new technology will be prized candidate attributes for hiring managers in search of talent.

Future applications

AR apps are tipped to be used to educate patients better, by providing a multisensory experience that can more effectively transmit information. Moreover, healthcare practice administrators will be empowered to access and manage medical records using AR, saving time and money while circumventing human error. Operating rooms will become unrecognisable, as monitors displaying vital statistics and images delivered by endoscopic cameras are relegated to the sands of time, and surgeons are freed by their smart glasses to focus in one immersive field of interactive vision.

How to transition

Far from replacing highly skilled jobs, AR is enabling professionals in the life sciences industry to do their jobs even more effectively, so the time to prepare yourself is now. Perhaps the most important way is by doing what you’re doing here – reading up on and keeping abreast of the rapidly advancing technocracy that is now setting the agenda. Awareness is key and, even if your role is not impacted directly, the ripple effect will be significant. Familiarity with these themes will be important in targeting future roles.

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