Tuesday, Jan 18, 2022

Augmented Reality and Vein Scanners: Too Far A Dream In Healthcare?

Vascular access is the most common invasive medical procedure. It is foundational to many diagnostic and clinical procedures. So the number of..

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Vascular access is the most common invasive medical procedure. It is foundational to many diagnostic and clinical procedures. So the number of potential procedures available for visualization is huge. Using augmented reality in finding veins accurately for a blood draw was one of the very first practical uses of augmented reality (AR) technology. I expected the concept to bloom from the very first use case and clinical tests. 

There is an issue down at the very base of medicine – 70 percent of medical decisions are based on the results of blood testing, yet, the majority of people carry a deeply rooted fear against needles and blood drawing altogether. So the technology has a real problem to solve and it was proven to be able to solve it, too.

But why haven’t vein scanners become part of everyday medicine yet? We dived in to find out.


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Building a magical device not just a product

I have long expected vein scanners and similar technologies like automated blood draw to be part of the medical practice by now. After all, artificial intelligence-led robots have better accuracy in finding veins simply because these machines take the guesswork out of the equation and actually see where the veins are and draw the blood from the exact place they want to draw from.


Vein Scanners

However, as it turns out, we, humans, have this thing with robots drawing our blood. Whether it’s the Terminator movies or our natural aversion to the unknown, I wouldn’t tell. But no matter how accurate a machine would be in finding our veins, we simply don’t allow it.

I was also certain that vein scanner technology supports nurses having fewer problems and mistakes throughout the process. But if that is the case, how come we don’t get to see more of such devices in practice?! Fact is, vein visualisation technology is slowly reaching a standard of care, but then there are other issues.

Blood sampling, which is a challenge for nurses and patients alike, is a challenge. There is a variable in the process, even with the most practised hand: not seeing or finding the vein. A vein scanner is designed to support this, as it shows even the thinnest veins, along with running direction and details.

Responding to this challenge, the first vein scanners appeared around 2009. We asked mechanical engineer Joe Zott, who participated in one of the very first projects developing handheld vein scanners. “I started working with mixed reality in 2009 when I joined AccuVein to develop their first product. AccuVein did not develop the first projection vein visualization device, but we made it handheld and useable. Having been the project and engineering manager for the development of a number of products and technologies, I had all the skills needed to manage a joint MR / medical device product development. Probably most important was that I viewed this as an opportunity to build a magical device and not just another product.

Expensive technology is hard to reach practice

A few years ago we took a look at the price tag of such products. I was blown away: the costs of such a machine were horrible; it was so much that I thought not a single hospital director would give for a device to do a job a single nurse can do, too.

If you consider the use of vein visualization from the perspective of the financial cost of the procedure vs. the clinical benefits of using the technology then I think it is already affordable in many situations” – Joe Zott added about the financial issues.

At AccuVein we conducted a number of studies looking at the number of procedures our vein visualization devices were used. These applications included everything from clinical Monday through Friday settings where the device was used during normal hours to hospital emergency departments who used their devices 24 hours a day 7 days a week. 

With vein visualization devices having a 5 year lifetime and a price of around $4,000 the per-procedure cost will be on the order of $0.50 to $1 per patient use. Given the cost of gloves, catheters, etc. used in a vascular access procedure, I think vein visualization doesn’t increase the per-use price much and so is already affordable.

As for if it can become more affordable in the future, Joe Zott added: “At AccuVein we conducted a number of studies looking at the number of procedures our vein visualization devices were used. These applications included everything from clinical Monday through Friday settings where the device was used during normal hours to hospital emergency departments who used their devices 24 hours a day 7 days a week.”


Vein Viewer - Vein Scanners

Will this technology become more affordable 

The price is relative if we consider that such a device is used multiple times a day – about 1-2000 times annually. With a lifespan of approximately 5 years this further nuance the price per patient. Making the technology more affordable than first thought.

While I like to describe it as magic, there is nothing magical about the technology. As consumer MR becomes more mainstream this also helps bring down the production costs of medical MR. I would expect a price reduction in the market as occurred with similar common use medical devices – digital stethoscopes, digital thermometers, blood pressure instruments, pulse oximeters” – finished Joe Zott.

We can only hope it will become more widely available. Until then, we look away and hope the nurse will find our veins this time.

The post Augmented Reality Helping Vein Scanners – Too Distant A Dream In Healthcare? appeared first on The Medical Futurist.

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By: Judit Kuszkó
Title: Augmented Reality Helping Vein Scanners – Too Distant A Dream In Healthcare?
Sourced From: medicalfuturist.com/vein-scanner-augmented-reality
Published Date: Tue, 23 Nov 2021 09:00:00 +0000

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