Augmented reality in healthcare education: an integrative review

PeerJ. 2014 Jul 8:2:e469. doi: 10.7717/peerj.469. eCollection 2014.


Background. The effective development of healthcare competencies poses great educational challenges. A possible approach to provide learning opportunities is the use of augmented reality (AR) where virtual learning experiences can be embedded in a real physical context. The aim of this study was to provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of the art in terms of user acceptance, the AR applications developed and the effect of AR on the development of competencies in healthcare. Methods. We conducted an integrative review. Integrative reviews are the broadest type of research review methods allowing for the inclusion of various research designs to more fully understand a phenomenon of concern. Our review included multi-disciplinary research publications in English reported until 2012. Results. 2529 research papers were found from ERIC, CINAHL, Medline, PubMed, Web of Science and Springer-link. Three qualitative, 20 quantitative and 2 mixed studies were included. Using a thematic analysis, we've described three aspects related to the research, technology and education. This study showed that AR was applied in a wide range of topics in healthcare education. Furthermore acceptance for AR as a learning technology was reported among the learners and its potential for improving different types of competencies. Discussion. AR is still considered as a novelty in the literature. Most of the studies reported early prototypes. Also the designed AR applications lacked an explicit pedagogical theoretical framework. Finally the learning strategies adopted were of the traditional style 'see one, do one and teach one' and do not integrate clinical competencies to ensure patients' safety.

Keywords: Augmented reality; Medical education; Medical simulation.

Grants and funding

The project was funded with intramural funds from Karolinska Institutet. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.