Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are two new revolutionary kinds of technology — and they might be coming to your pharmacy sooner than you think.
If you’ve ever worn VR goggles or played immersive games (like Pokémon GO), you’re already familiar with these technologies. But augmented reality and virtual reality don’t stop at entertainment: they have practical applications in the pharmacy.
Let’s explore some of those applications and discover how this new technology just might transform your practice.
Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality: What’s the Difference?
First, let’s answer the questions: what exactly is augmented reality? What is virtual reality? How are they different, and how are they used together?
Augmented reality adds digital information and images to what you see in the real world, usually through special glasses or your phone’s camera.
Virtual reality creates a completely different computer-generated world that you can explore and interact with using special headsets.
In other words, augmented reality uses elements from the real world; virtual reality creates a new world altogether. Together, AR and VR can create an immersive experience for the viewer and open up new possibilities for learning — including in your pharmacy.
AR and VR in the Pharmacy
AR and VR might seem like foreign concepts in the pharmacy, but they’re far from it. In fact, many companies have created AR/VR technologies that help pharmacists every day.
- HYPERVSN creates holograms for medical practices of all kinds, including signage and branding, safety information, and a “holographic doctor” that explains information to patients.
- Talespin uses augmented reality to help new healthcare professionals learn soft skills, like explaining treatment plans, listening to patients, and building trust with colleagues.
- 3DforScience uses virtual reality to help patients understand how their bodies work. In a VR simulation, patients can be immersed inside their bodies to see how a medication works with their system and impacts their overall health.
- Varjo creates both AR and VR solutions for clinical training. Varjo headsets simulate medical instruments, text, and other elements in human-eye resolution to provide a more immersive learning experience for students.
These technologies are only the beginning of augmented and virtual realities in the pharmacy, and we’re likely to see many more in the coming years. Future uses for AR/VR may include:
- Pharmacy simulation: VR environments could simulate various pharmacy scenarios, allowing students and new professionals to practice patient interactions, medication dispensing, and counseling in a controlled setting.
- Pharmacology education: Complex drug mechanisms could be explained through interactive VR experiences, helping students understand new concepts beyond traditional methods.
- Virtual prescription labels: AR glasses could display prescription information, dosage instructions, and potential side effects directly on medication packaging, enhancing a patient’s safety and understanding of their treatment plan.
- Language translation: AR glasses could translate medication instructions and counseling information into a patient's preferred language, eliminating communication barriers and reducing medication errors.
Benefits of AR and VR in the Pharmacy
AR and VR technologies may sound interesting and innovative — but are they actually effective at improving pharmacists’ workflows and ensuring patients’ projected health outcomes? In short, yes. AR and VR can offer a number of benefits for both pharmacists and patients.
Benefits for Pharmacists
- Advanced training: AR and VR offer realistic simulations for clinical training, allowing pharmacists to practice complex procedures in safe environments.
- Skill enhancement: Pharmacists can refine their skills and knowledge through repeated practice in virtual scenarios, leading to improved patient care.
- Increased empathy: AR and VR can simulate real-world experiences that boosts pharmacists’ empathy. In fact, a study from the National Library of Medicine found that VR enhances students' understanding of age-related health problems and increases their empathy for older adults.
- Higher patient engagement: Interactive AR tools can help pharmacists explain medical information in a more clear and concise way, leading to better communication and improved patient satisfaction.
Benefits for Patients
- Better education: AR and VR technologies make information easier for patients to understand, ensuring they can feel confident about their treatment plans.
- Greater accessibility: Patients can use VR simulations from their homes while being remotely supervised by a pharmacist via telehealth. This is especially useful for patients who live in remote areas or those facing mobility challenges.
- Diminished pain: Cedars-Sinai Hospital found that a VR experience can reduce pain in patients by 24% or more. VR applications can also be used to help women in labor, patients suffering from acute and chronic pain, and those undergoing painful procedures.
- Improved cognitive function: A report from Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that VR intervention can improve cognitive and motor function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment or dementia, especially in attention and execution, member, global cognition, and balance.
- Enhanced physical therapy: For patients in need of physical rehabilitation, VR is an effective tool in treatments. It can enhance exercise and help patients to virtually practice real-life skills, such as grocery shopping or dishwashing.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are two new technologies that may change the healthcare system, including your day-to-day operations in your pharmacy.
Many types of technology are already available, and at an average of only $300 to $1,000 per device, they’re well within reach of most pharmacies.
The future of pharmacy is constantly evolving, but it’s clear that AR/VR technologies are an important part of that future. If you’re looking to expand, evolve, and improve your pharmacy operations, consider investing in AR/VR technologies.
Your patients (and your practice) will thank you for it.
For more information on how pharmacy technology can impact your work and your approach to patient care, visit our “Compare Software” page to see how today’s leading pharmacy software systems compare to one another.