Digital Reality

Team Zorg Enablers
Published on
Trends | Treatment & Guidance


“Augmented reality is one of the most promising digital technologies at present and it has the potential to change healthcare and everyday medicine completely for physicians and patients alike”

The Medical Futurist


Digital Reality is an umbrella term that refers to virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR).



Digital reality can be deployed to train professionals and medical students. The technology allows them to observe or even perform virtual surgery [1]. In addition, underlying structures can be displayed during surgery by means of augmented reality assisted surgery (ARAS) [2, 3]. Digital reality can also help medical students memorise information [1]. The use of digital reality in medical training is described under the digital school trend in Healthcare Enablers 2018 [4]. In addition to education, digital reality can be deployed to treat patients. It can help gain an understanding of their living environment and train empathy [5, 6]. Digital reality can also be deployed therapeutically, e.g. in trauma counselling, rehabilitation, and treatment of mental disorders [7-13]. Furthermore, digital reality is deployed to facilitate contact between immobilised patients and the outside world with the aim of promoting mental well-being [14, 15]. Digital reality can help reduce administrative pressure on healthcare professionals: research has shown that healthcare providers can report and photograph hands-free using AR while they are treating chronic wounds; a type of treatment that normally requires a lot of reporting and documentation [16]. Digital reality can help reduce healthcare costs thanks to safer and more effective surgery and improved or accelerated outcomes for patients [1].



The global market value of digital reality is expected to increase to a total of $120.5 billion in 2026 [17]. VR alone accounts for a market value increase of over $21 billion in 2021 to almost $70 billion in 2028 [18]. The market value of digital reality in healthcare is expected to increase to a total of $9.5 billion in 2028 [19]. This market growth is mostly caused by far-reaching innovations and an increasing need for effective ways of organising processes and achieving results. The market value increase is also affected by the demand for innovative technologies for diagnosis, such as endo and colonoscopy [20].


Driving forces

Improving digital skills
New technological capabilities
Increased awareness and growing acceptance

Hindering forces

Lack of expertise
High costs (development, purchase, and maintenance)
Immaturity of the application

Both the development and implementation of digital reality are very complex and require a lot of expertise. In addition, innovations are associated with high development and purchase costs [21]. And yet, improvements in digital skills are enabling increasingly large-scale deployment of technology. And the fact that hospitals are competing to innovate as quickly as possible and keep up with digital reality developments adds to the expanding role of these technologies. The corona crisis also demonstrated the value of digital reality: virtual reality was deployed, among other techniques, to train healthcare professionals without being in direct contact with patients [22]. In addition, a therapy that involves virtual reality was developed to prepare people with needle phobia for mass vaccination programmes. In the end, digital reality contributes to a reduction of healthcare costs and improved performance.



Despite the aforementioned limitations, application of digital reality in healthcare is on the rise. In part due to various therapeutic applications, patient outcomes are improving while healthcare costs are reduced. Digital reality developments are thus contributing to the evolution of autonomic systems and the bionic human.


  1. Menon, S.S. (2021). ARiSE-Augmented Reality in Surgery and Education. Diss. Ph.D. Wright State University
  2. Qian, L., Wu, J. Y., DiMaio, S. P., Navab, N., & Kazanzides, P., A Review of Augmented Reality in Robotic-Assisted Surgery, IEEE Transactions on Medical Robotics and Bionics , 2020. 2:1
  3. Bernard, F., Haemmerli, J., Zegarek, G., Kiss-Bodolay, D., Schaller, K., & Bijlenga, P., Augmented reality–assisted roadmaps during periventricular brain surgery, Neurosurgical Focus, 2021. 51(2)
  4. Idenburg, P.J. and V. Dekkers, Digital School, in Zorg Enablers 2018: Technologische ontwikkelingen in de gezondheidszorg. 2018, Quality Dots: Zeewolde. p. 52-53.
  5. Herrera, F., et al., Building long-term empathy: A large-scale comparison of traditional and virtual reality perspective-taking. PLoS One, 2018. 13(10): p. e0204494.
  6. Bertrand, P., et al., Learning Empathy Through Virtual Reality: Multiple Strategies for Training Empathy-Related Abilities Using Body Ownership Illusions in Embodied Virtual Reality, Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 2018. 5(26).
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  11. Jensen, B. S., Andersen, N., Petersen, J., & Nyboe, L., Enhanced Mental Health with Virtual Reality Mental Hygiene by a Veteran Suffering from PTSD. Case Reports in Psychiatry, 2021.
  12. Wu, J., Sun, Y., Zhang, G., Zhou, Z., & Ren, Z., Virtual Reality-Assisted Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2021. 12.
  13. Reddy, S., VR Fast Emerging As a Powerful Tool in Treating Anxiety Disorders, 2018
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  16. Klinker, K., Wiesche, M. & Krcmar, H., Digital Transformation in Health Care: Augmented Reality for Hands-Free Service Innovation, 2020. 22: 1419-1431.
  17. Fortune Business Insights, Virtual Reality Market Size, Share & Industry Analysis, By Offering (Hardware, Software), By Technology (Nonimmersive, Semi-Immersive), By Industry Vertical (Gaming & Entertainment Media, Healthcare, Education, Automotive, Aerospace & Defense, Manufacturing), By Application (Training & Simulation, Educational, Attraction, Research & Development) and Regional Forecast, 2019 – 2026, 2019
  18. Grand View Research, Virtual Reality Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Technology (Semi & Fully Immersive, Non-immersive), By Device (HMD, GTD), By Component (Hardware, Software), By Application, And Segment Forecasts, 2021 – 2028, 2021
  19. Grand View Research, Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality In Healthcare Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Component, By Technology, By Region And Segment Forecasts, 2021 – 2028, 2021
  20. Zion Market Research, Global Virtual Reality In Healthcare Market Will Reach USD 3,441 Million By 2027, 2019
  21. Gandhi, R.D. & Patel, D.S. (2018). Virtual Reality – Opportunities and Challenges. International Research Journal of Engineering and Technology (IRJET), 5(1), 482-490.
  22. Somauroo, J., Virtual Reality Helps Medics Beat Coronavirus, Forbes, 2020 June 19th [Available from:]