“AR is creating awareness in distant areas”

Dr. Niranjan Naik, Director of Breast & Gastro-Intestinal Onco-Surgery at Fortis Memorial Research Institute (FMRI), Gurgaon, tells TPCI about various AR applications like AccuVein, Hololens & Google Glass which are proving to be quite beneficial for the health sector. He also believes that the use of AR in the health sector will augment medical tourism in the country.

TPCI: What are the possible applications of AR in Indian healthcare sector?  What use cases have evolved so far?

Dr. Niranjan Naik (NN): Based on the available literature, I can say that AR is helping in diagnostics and learning to create awareness in distant areas through telehealth services. It is also helping in treatment. For example, there is a technique called AccuVein where one can detect the vein properly to cannulate.

TPCI:  What benefits will using AR technology bring for the sector?

NN: AR helps in increasing the comfort to the patient and in enhancing the accuracy of the treatment based on multiple evidences available. Therefore, it can combine multiple data and help students and doctors in learning. It can also help in performing surgeries. For example, in brain surgeries there is a technique called neuro-navigation where they can synchronise the data of MRI, CT-Scan at the time of surgery (-real time synchronisation). This allows the doctor to figure out the location of tumour, where exactly one has to cut. It will revolutionise the way we perform our surgeries. Right now, we see 2D images, we create an image in our mind and do the operation. But AR can help in assessing the real time situation. Then there’s something called Microsoft Hololens and Google Glass which combine VR with all the data available by using camera, sensors and digital information in real time. The applications of Google Glass are multiple. Like AR can help you to locate nearest medical facilities if, say, someone is having a heart attack on the road. It can also train people to do some special tests such as self-examination tests for breast cancer in real time. It can tell those mothers who have started breastfeeding their children about how to do it properly. The patient can also tell the app about the symptoms that it is facing (like pain) and they can show where exactly the pain is being felt. Also, the AR-based app, EyeDecide, can help detect eye problems like cataract. Further, 3D printings (which are a part of AR) are useful in the field of artificial prosthetics & things like making a replica of some patient’s jaw.

TPCI:  Will the use of AR make India an expensive medical tourism destination? How can the cost upswing be brought under control?

NN: Cost is one of the main challenges because cost will be prohibitive to start with initially. However, if more and more players come into the picture, the cost may reduce and it may help. Even in our hospital, we use navigated arthroscopy for joint related issues. In that, all the images are combined with radiological images (like those of CT Scan). Although its cost is not very much, with more research and better technology, its cost will come down.

As these facilities become better, the prospect of medical tourism will also be enhanced. India is a country where compared to western world, medical facilities are always cheaper. So, even though AR based treatment might be costlier for an Indian patient, it will be lot more cheaper when compared to other countries.

Dr. Niranjan Naik is a well-known senior surgical oncologist who is presently the Director of Breast & Gastro-Intestinal Onco-Surgery at Fortis Memorial Research Institute (FMRI), Gurgaon. He has been trained in surgical oncology from the prestigious Institute Rotary Cancer Hospital (IRCH), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi and is considered as one of the best breast cancer surgeon Delhi and Gurgaon region. He is also well versed in diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopic procedures. He also has several publications to his credit.

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