Advancements in technology have led the world to the Information Age, where the connectivity between physical and logical locations with digital technology has broken barriers of time and space separating people, allowing the free flow of information and ideas (Aceto et al., 2018). Today more than 5 billion people worldwide lack access to safe surgical care due to the limited number of surgeons and health resources (Hachach-Haram, 2017). As a result, patients requiring surgery have to make some tough choices between waiting, travelling, or not having the surgery at all.
Several hundred years ago, understanding microbiology acted as a catalyst to developing antiseptic techniques to help patients stay alive post-surgery. As the years went by, keyhole or arthroscopic surgery was used, a combination of technology and precision instruments to make surgery less invasive. As digital technology evolved, robots are now used to perform surgery. Robotic surgery is modern automated machinery with a high degree of ultraprecision carrying out surgical procedures with a high degree of accuracy that sometimes surpasses the human hand. From the idea of using robots for surgery came the concept of remote surgery where surgeons do not need to stand by the patient while performing the surgery; instead, the surgeon could use a computer, tablet, or smartphone to provide instructions for the robot to perform the surgery remotely. However, the cost of getting a robot is exceptionally high, and using robots for remote surgery is not a scalable solution. However, digital technology, smartphones, tablets, computers, internet connections, and a health professional on ground could make the difference with surgical procedures using augmented reality collaboration software. With augmented reality collaboration software, expert surgeons could be virtually present at any clinical setting using a smartphone, tablet, or computer with internet connections to visually and practically take part in a surgical procedure by guiding and mentoring local doctors (Hachach-Haram, 2017). This is critical because showing someone what you want them to do by illustrating and demonstrating with gestures is better than telling them what to do. As a result, augmented reality could be a great learning tool. Thus, using augmented reality technology, patient care that is cost effective, scalable, and reliable could be provided to patients at a local level, thereby reducing exorbitant traveling expenses while acting as a perfect medium for training.
The two factors that directly influence the progress of using augmented reality in performing remote surgical procedures are information technology gadgets like smartphones, tablets, computers, internet connections and a capable healthcare practitioner. These factors are critical and the success of using this technology in performing surgery depends on the availability of internet connections between these digital devices and a trained healthcare practitioner. However, given the rapid increase in the use of mobile devices across the globe, there is a high probability that the internet aspect will gradually be extended to reach remote areas that do not currently have access to the internet. The rapid evolution of low earth orbital connected satellites constellation of Elon Musk’s Starlink (Starlink, 2022) and Amazon’s Project Kuniper (Anders, 2021) will provide high-speed satellite internet access with broad bandwidth worldwide, including remote locations. On the health practitioner side of things, there needs to be a boast in the training of more healthcare professionals to fill the gap in the healthcare sectors around the world.
Aceto, G., Persico, V., & Pescapé, A. (2018). The role of Information and Communication Technologies in healthcare: taxonomies, perspectives, and challenges. Journal of Network and Computer Applications, 107, 125-154. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnca.2018.02.008
Anders, D. (2021). Amazon to launch first two Project Kuiper satellites in late 2022. CNET. https://www.cnet.com/home/internet/amazon-to-launch-first-two-project-kuiper-satellites-in-late-2022/
Hachach-Haram, N. (2017). How augmented reality could change the future of surgery. TED. https://www.ted.com/talks/nadine_hachach_haram_how_augmented_reality_could_change_the_future_of_surgery
Starlink. (2022). WORLD’S MOST ADVANCED BROADBAND INTERNET SYSTEM. https://www.starlink.com/satellites