Analyzing the Impact of XR Applications in Healthcare

Author by: Eric Graves, Chief Operating Officer, Elara Systems

If you were to sum up the state of the XR market, it would be quite an understatement to say that the future merely looks bright.  Indeed, hardly any other industry can compete with the economic opportunities that exist in the XR space.  As terminology is subject to change and interpretation, when we refer to XR in this article, we are specifically referring to Virtual Reality (“VR”), Augmented Reality (“AR”), and Mixed Reality (“MR”). Those three technologies are often banded together and referred to as XR.

In a 2018 study, 78% of Americans said that they were familiar with Virtual Reality.  Despite the familiarity, adoption lagged behind recognition.  However, when we fast forward to March of 2021, data shows that there are over 150 million users of AR/VR technology in the United States.  That’s nearly one-half of the population of the country.  In less than three years we have seen an incredibly rapid rise in adoption and usage.

Admittedly, much of the growth in the XR market is attributable to gaming and recreational uses of the technology.  However, the enterprise market for XR training, education, and simulation platforms has grown exponentially.  One of the main reasons for this rapid ascension was the COVID-19 pandemic.  As Americans struggled to try and keep up efficiency without being able to meet and collaborate in person, we saw many major corporations put their XR development initiatives into hyperdrive.  At this point, it is hard to imagine just about any industry that is not using the technology in some manner.

This growth is not occurring without reason. XR solutions offer tangible benefits that are not available on traditional education, training, and simulation platforms.  Nowhere are the benefits of XR adoption clearer than in the healthcare industry.

Most leading healthcare companies have initiated some type of XR training and education platforms for their employees and customers.  These platforms range from simply highlighting the benefits and usage instructions for medical devices, all the way to lifelike surgical simulation with haptic tactile feedback.  Training residents and surgeons how to perform surgery in a virtual reality space allow for mistakes to be made without real-life consequences.  It also allows for unlimited repetition of a particular surgical technique in order to achieve perfection. Medical device companies can also use XR training modules and simulators to train surgeons on new types of equipment.

Studies have shown that retention levels in a Virtual Reality space are 80% higher than that of traditional lecture-based or written curriculum.  The reason for this is the total immersion that the student has while in a Virtual Reality headset.  They cannot be distracted by their phones or other external stimuli.  Given the sheer multitude of distractions in the world, allowing students, doctors, and employees a virtual world – free from intrusion – gives them the best shot at learning and retaining information.  The healthcare industry has recognized this benefit and is acting on it.

The use of XR in the healthcare industry goes beyond training and education.  XR is now widely viewed as a potent tool for the treatment of a variety of conditions, primarily in the area of mental health and wellness.  By way of example, psychiatrists have been treating PTSD patients with Virtual Reality immersion therapy.  By creating a potentially traumatic situation in a virtual space, patients are able to learn to cope and overcome trauma without consequences in the real world.  A patient’s therapist can join the patient in the virtual environment and can coach them through difficult situations and interactions.  Initial results of these pilot programs have been very encouraging.

Concurrently with the growth of XR usage in the healthcare industry, there has been increased interest in XR from investors.  Of course, whenever there is growth or the potential for growth in a particular industry, investors are going to look for opportunities to capitalize on it.  At present, the United States XR market is estimated to be worth over $30 billion.  This figure is expected to grow to $300 billion and increase the country’s GDP by $120 billion in the next three years.  Literally, we are looking at an increase of over ten times market value within three years.

The good news for traditional, blue-chip stock investors is that almost every established healthcare company is using XR technology in some capacity at the present time.  In the medical space, if you are not already into XR you are already likely too late.  The use of this technology will offer scalable solutions for some of the complex problems this article discussed in the areas of education, training, and treatment.  The implementation of these programs should drive up the value of these already valuable stocks.

There are some publicly traded companies that are specifically positioned to deliver XR and Artificial Intelligence platforms to healthcare companies as well.  Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, Inc. (MDRX) is an established data and technology solutions provider that recently entered into a number of transactions with other companies to expand its foothold in the healthcare industry.  This company is projected to grow at around 10% in long-term earnings.  Cerner Corporation (CERN) is focused on AI-enabled workflow solutions and is pegged to have long-term earnings growth at a rate of approximately 12%.  RedMed, Inc. (RMD) is a company already known for its progressive offerings in the digital healthcare arena.  Its long-term earnings are targeted at around 14%.

As can be seen from this article, there is a huge potential for innovation and economic return in the realm of XR healthcare solutions.  No longer a novelty, researchers are seeing the potential of XR in the areas of education, training, and treatment right now.  The rapid rise of innovation and development in this area practically ensures an exponential growth of applications and economic return within the next few years.

As a creative studio with over 20 years of experience in the 3D animation and XR marketplace, Elara Systems is well-positioned to provide our partners in the healthcare industry with technologically robust and innovative solutions to a variety of practical training, education, and simulation applications.