With each passing year, medical robots manage to advance with incredible pace, enabling doctors and patients to work closely with them.
From the moment first science fiction authors imagined robotic beings, we became interested in creating them. While today many are worried that their introduction will cause massive reduction of human workforce, others are able to see the positives of their adoption, and especially in medical robots! After all, machines do not need to sleep, eat, get rested, be sick, have prejudices against other people, and can be resistant to harsh working environments where human workers would have trouble to spend prolonged periods of time.
While some of the early examples of working robots have been produced in crude and carefully controlled manner, advances in technology, modern healthcare, and telehealth have enabled engineers and scientist to create machines who have the ability to showcase “human touch” when handling various tasks. Such modern medical robots represent a clear advantage to medical professionals and patients who can use them to achieve better and more accessible care.
Types of Medical Robots
Medical robots are today being made in many form factors, from big machines that can perform a single task without the oversight of medical professionals, to fully functional moving robots that can help elderly in some of their daily activities. So, let us find out tasks do medical robots perform?
Any type of surgery requires exquisite precision, which is one of the reasons why even highly medical professionals can appreciate the help that modern robotic solutions can give them. One of the best modern examples of this comes in the form of robots created by the company daVinci, which give the ability to doctors to remotely control set of surgery tools with incredible precision. By simply sitting in a chair, looking at the screen and controlling two 3D sensing joysticks, surgeons can enter into the patient body with an array of multi-functional tools that give them greater reach, flexibility, precision and ease of use that all enable them to create minimal incisions that will require less post-operative recovery time.
Today, nurses are responsible for doing wide array of tasks that will in the future be released to robots. One of the best examples of this is the process of taking blood from patients. Newly developed solutions can enable patients to simply place their hand on the robot and he will automatically locate the veins, insert the needle and take the required amount of blood. The presence of these kinds of medical robots will enable hospital staff to focus more of their energy on other tasks that require human decision-making skills and empathy. This will be a great help for nurses because they are most often overwhelmed by a number of daily tasks (many of them very repetitive) that they need to manage without any mistakes.
Home care robots
While it is true that robots are great for repetitive tasks, they can also be utilized for remote patient care. For example, medical robots created by the company Anybots Int can enable caretakers to easily check up on their remote patients utilizing telepresence robots that can move through patients home. This enables faster, more efficient and accessible care, without the need for patients to spend money and time each time they need to contact their doctors or caretakers.
Of course, this type of care also attracts a fair amount of criticism regarding patient privacy and security. Manufacturers of these robots are required to create strict hardware and software measures that would prevent anyone who does not have the authorization to access these robots. With proper safeguards, medical robots of this type will undoubtedly improve the lives of patients and their caretakers.
Technically speaking, medical robots are not only devices that look like traditional “robots”. Medical professionals view any kind of device that can help them achieve desired effects to be part of this field. For example, telemedicine networks. They can help medical personnel to reach patients who are living outside the working range of medical facilities, which can be extremely helpful to patients who live in rural areas, areas where medical help requires too much time to arrive or in areas that have experienced some kind of emergency where too many patients require medical attention. Best yet, to achieve telemedicine connection, on both ends of internet connection (at patients and clinicians end) are needed only a modern tablet or personal computer.
Robotic equipment does not need to be assembled into standalone form. It can also be placed on our body and forming an exoskeleton that can enable paralyzed people to move and walk, rehabilitate stroke and spinal injury patients, and even enable healthy people to more easily manage to lift heavy weights or walking large distances. While they can introduce many positive effects, today they remain difficult and expensive to produce, with many types of them requiring onboard power which makes them usable only during short periods of time. In the future, we can expect many regulatory changes that will try to put limits (and minimize misuse) on this field of medical robots, and possibly change the way insurance companies view these devices.
Supply chain robots
Robots can be sensitive to their movements and very expensive for manufacture, but when needed, they can be very durable, fast and able to overtake humans in tasks that we would consider too dangerous. Since they can survive in harsh environments, robots are today being built to augment rescue efforts, to be used in chemical or radiation invested environment and more.
They are also learning to be better and better at traversal over harsh terrain or aerial flight. One of the useful potential use case scenarios is flying medical drones who can deliver to patients their required medication, or even augment search and rescue efforts.
One area in which medical robots will most likely find a good and long work hours are in the field of disinfection. Robots are not susceptible to various health hazards such as poisoning and long-term issues connected with the connection with various chemicals. Additionally, patients themselves are in danger of becoming infected during their stay in hospitals. According to some studies, one in every 25 patients in the US suffers an infection while staying in hospitals, and one of nine of those patients dies. Since these hospital-induced infections are costing the US Medical Industry over $30 billion dollars each year, an introduction of any tool that can help hospitals to disinfect rooms from any possible disease or contamination is welcomed with opened arms. One of such disinfectant medical robots is Texas-made Xenex Robot who uses high-intensity ultraviolet light to disinfect hospital rooms quickly and efficiently. This approach has been linked with drastic reduction of hospital-acquired infections.
Robots come in all shapes and sizes. In recent years, medical engineers have devised a plan for the creation of small capsule-sized devices that patient can ingest. When inside, these small robots unfold themselves, allowing technicians to control them using magnetic fields and patch up internal wounds inside stomach itself. When the work is complete, robots folds itself together back into capsule form, enabling the patient to safely expel it away. In addition to this innovative project, many other medical mini-robots that can travel through our body are currently being devised.
Pharma dispenser robots
Heavy lifting, repetitive tasks, and easily automated tasks are those that will soon surely be relegated to our robotic friends. But as time goes on, machine learning and AIs have become more and more capable, being able to sift through an incredible amount of medical data and medical recommendations. Very soon, they will be able to make precise treatment recommendations, after which patients will be faced with Pharma dispenser robots – an ATM machines that will dispense them their medication. Fulfilling prescriptions is one of the areas of healthcare that can be greatly improved by automatization. This will enable pharmacists to have more time to participate in tasks such as providing patients practical advice, educating them about preventive measures, and making sure that patients are receiving proper care and empathy during their treatment.
The quality of healthcare can be achieved not only with direct medical records but also increase the quality of life. Having a pet or a social partner can treat certain mental health issues and alleviate loneliness. Robotic pets have tried to enter this field for years now, and while some only try to emulate the appearance and movements of pets, others are also augmented with advanced hardware such as touch sensors, microphone, cameras, and light AI capabilities that can facilitate light conversations. They can not only provide entertainment but can also remind you about your medication, doctor meeting schedules, perform basic health monitoring or provide treatment timings.
A word from Telehealther
As the capabilities of medical robots become more and more advanced, the get the chance to become more and more influential and transform the world of medicine as we know it. But to achieve so, these robots will have to get support from mainstream media, which is something that many doubt they will get.
Here at Telehealther you can remain in contact with the world of digital health care, telehealth, medical robot news and much more.
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