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Is Mixed Reality on the Horizon for Healthcare?

Mixed Reality (MR) also known as “hybrid reality” and “extended reality,” has the potential to change just about every industry, healthcare being no exception. A combination of Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI); MR is emerging as a tech to create experiences that blend the real-life environment with digital elements.

It is lauded as being revolutionary because of its ability to provide a more personalized and immersive experience and recent advancements are paving way for previously unimagined possibilities in medicine, not only by lowering training and operational costs but also by improving surgical safety and precision.

According to a report by Research and Markets, the mixed reality market was valued at USD 376.1 million in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 3,915.6 million by 2026 with an expected CAGR of 41.8% over the forecast period 2021 to 2026. 

With the rapid adoption of Mixed Reality in the coming years, the technology could find a variety of uses in the healthcare sector, including reducing the use of cadavers in medical student training, patient engagement therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and pre-operative visualisation of brain tumours by reviewing scans in-person using AR.

How ‘Mixed Reality’ is reshaping complex health procedures?

Mixed Reality offers infinite possibilities in medical diagnosis, training, surgeries, medical treatments, and rehabilitation, making it extremely detailed and accurate.

Instant diagnoses

MR headsets can record patient history discussed verbally by medical professionals which can be accessed by anyone including the nursing staff. Furthermore, these headsets can even analyze data and provide reports to doctors in real-time, eliminating the need to manually go through physical reports, making diagnosis faster and more accurate.

Medical training

Mixed Reality in recent years has seen more popularity in academics where it acts as an aid for teachers to teach various subjects and techniques. Students too can hone their skills before performing surgeries on patients. Doctors can also use MR to rehearse complicated surgeries, saving valuable time during their procedure while increasing their success rate.

Enhanced surgery

MR develops personalized 3D models for each patient and visualizes the interior anatomy in a completely immersive environment, thereby helping in pre-operative simulations. The MR wearable devices in combination with new emerging imaging technologies can aid greatly in complex surgical procedures such as reconstructive surgeries where holographic overlays helped surgeons to better view the bones and identify the course of blood vessels.

Recent applications of Mixed Reality in healthcare

Renowned medical universities are researching and using mixed reality in different areas of medicine, and the results appear to be promising in cardiology, training, autism, surgery, and more.

  1. Cardiology:

Apollo Hospitals, one of the largest hospital chains in India, launch a mixed reality programme- Apollo ProHealthDeepX that uses machine learning, digital signal processing, and mixed reality to provide a visual insight into the internals of the heart using 3D images and assess a patient’s risk factors for heart disease all using the MR headsets.

  1. Medicine Training:

NUS Medicine (Singapore) created Project Polaris which aims to integrate MR into their learning experience and create a realistic clinical scenario and give students a visual presentation of actual clinical procedural skills like inserting a cannula, as well as inserting catheters in male and female urinary tracts with the help of 3D holograms projections.

  1. Autism Treatment:

The autism glass project of the medical school of Stanford University uses Google Glass to assist autistic children in interpreting their emotions and automating facial expression recognition using AI. They also intend to improve its accuracy and allow users to interact with it without the use of glasses in the future.

  1. Phantom Limb Pain Treatment:

Aalborg University in Denmark conducted a study to examine if virtual reality (VR) can help reduce the pain of phantom limbs by tricking the amputee’s brain into believing it still controls the missing limb. When a patient moves his arm, the virtual arm moves in lockstep with them, allowing the patient to control the amputated limb with his brain.

Why the hesitation to implement MR?

Mixed Reality can be used in a variety of situations in healthcare, from home care to acute care units. While MR technology is expected to save costs and increase patient outcomes and satisfaction, healthcare professionals are encountering several challenges as they prepare to implement it.

The lack of adequate skill among medical practitioners, high investment costs, technical glitches, establishing interoperability with existing systems, defining reimbursement schemes, creating a secure environment, and the fear of data loss are all likely to stifle market growth for the time being during the assessment period.

The Road Ahead

Despite these challenges, over the projected period, improvements in regulatory policies are expected to ease the adoption of this technology. Factors such as rapid advancements in sensor technology, increased user acceptance, growing applications of MR in medical treatment, and increased workload of healthcare workers are driving the adoption of mixed reality in the global healthcare market. The benefits of MR systems, such as better operational efficiency, improved service quality, and reduced human effort, are also expected to boost mixed reality’s rise in the healthcare sector.
Statista report estimated that in 2025, the global mixed reality market will increase to about 3.7 billion U.S. dollars and the healthcare sector will hold the majority. It won’t be a surprise to see hospitals and clinics doubling the use of Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), or Mixed Reality (MR) technologies in their clinical activities. Soon, we can expect to see MR technology being used in every other doctor’s clinic.

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Retention playbook for Insurance firms in the backdrop of financial crises

4 minutes read

Belonging to one of the oldest industries in the world, Insurance companies have weathered multiple calamities over the years and have proven themselves to be resilient entities that can truly stand the test of time. Today, however, the industry faces some of its toughest trials yet. Technology has fundamentally changed what it means to be an insurer and the cumulative effects of the pandemic coupled with a weak global economic output have impacted the industry in ways both good and bad.

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Source: Deloitte Services LP Economic Analysis

For instance, the U.S market recorded a sharp dip in GDP in the wake of the pandemic and it was expected that the economy would bounce back bringing with it a resurgent demand for all products (including insurance) across the board. It must be noted that the outlook toward insurance products changed as a result of the pandemic. Life insurance products were no longer an afterthought, although profitability in this segment declined over the years. Property-and-Casualty (P&C) insurance, especially motor insurance, continued to be a strong driver, while health insurance proved to be the fastest-growing segment with robust demand from different geographies

Simultaneously, the insurance industry finds itself on the cusp of an industry-wide shift as technology is starting to play a greater role in core operations. In particular, technologies such as AI, AR, and VR are being deployed extensively to retain customers amidst this technological and economic upheaval.

Double down on digital

For insurance firms, IT budgets were almost exclusively dedicated to maintaining legacy systems, but with the rise of InsurTech, it is imperative that firms start dedicating more of their budgets towards developing advanced capabilities such as predictive analytics, AI-driven offerings, etc. Insurance has long been an industry that makes extensive use of complex statistical and mathematical models to guide pricing and product development strategies. By incorporating the latest technological advances with the rich data they have accumulated over the years, insurance firms are poised to emerge stronger and more competitive than ever.

Using AI to curate a bespoke customer experience

Insurance has always been a low-margin affair and success in the business is primarily a function of selling the right products to the right people and reducing churn as much as possible. This is particularly important as customer retention is normally conceived as an afterthought in most industries, as evidenced in the following chart.

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        Source: econconusltancy.com

AI-powered tools (even with narrow capabilities) can do wonders for the insurance industry at large. When architected in the right manner, they can be used to automate a bulk of the standardized and automated processes that insurance companies have. AI can be used to automate and accelerate claims, assess homeowner policies via drones, and facilitate richer customer experiences through sophisticated chatbots. Such advances have a domino effect of increasing CSAT scores, boosting retention rates, reducing CACs, and ultimately improving profitability by as much as 95%.

Crafting immersive products through AR/VR

Customer retention is largely a function of how good a product is, and how effective it is in solving the customers’ pain points. In the face of increasing commodification, insurance companies that go the extra mile to make the buying process more immersive and engaging can gain a definite edge over competitors.

Globally, companies are flocking to implement AR/VR into their customer engagement strategies as it allows them to better several aspects of the customer journey in one fell swoop. Relationship building, product visualization, and highly personalized products are some of the benefits that AR/VR confers to its wielders.  

By honoring the customer sentiments of today and applying a slick AR/VR-powered veneer over its existing product layer, insurance companies can cater to a younger audience (Gen Z) by educating them about insurance products and tailoring digital delivery experiences. This could pay off in the long run by building a large customer base that could be retained and served for a much longer period.

The way forward

The Insurance industry is undergoing a shift of tectonic proportions as an older generation makes way for a new and younger one that has little to no perceptions about the industry. By investing in next-generation technologies such as AR/VR, firms can build new products to capture this new market and catapult themselves to leadership positions simply by way of keeping up with the times.

We have already seen how AR is a potential game-changer for the insurance industry. It is only a matter of time before it becomes commonplace.

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