Robotics and the medical industry have an old relationship. Even before robots were generalized across various industries, the healthcare system has been relying on state-of-the-art robotics for some of the most advanced medical solutions and surgeries. However, it is also true that with technological advancement, robots are even more feasible in the current healthcare system. From transforming surgery procedures to streamlining medication delivery systems, the article talks about how robots have revolutionized the medical industry and patient care.
Why are Robots used in Healthcare?
First, let us understand the phenomenon behind the use of robots in healthcare, an industry that deals with saving lives. For those who are unfamiliar with the topic, robots were first introduced in the medical sector back in the 1980s. Yes, even before the whole AI debate, robotics has been a salient part of healthcare. It all started with providing aid during surgeries using robotic arm technology.
Over the years, the implementation of AI, data analytics, and precision control technologies, has made a contribution to healthcare robotics. As such, today, the robot is no longer limited to the operating theater. Rather, it has ventured out and has started affecting, mostly for the positive, other aspects of healthcare.
Benefits of Robotics in Healthcare
Why are robots needed in healthcare? Given below are a few reasons:
An Increase in the quality of Patient care
Robots are capable of handling surgeries and other minimally invasive procedures. They can also be used for patient monitoring. Furthermore, there is therapeutic aid and patient care for the elderly. Overall, robotics can enhance the quality of care as they do not tire and provide the maximum attention to a patient. These robots can also be used to relieve nurses who suffer from an excessive workload. Doing so will ultimately allow nurses and other caregivers to show more empathy to patients and increase human interaction.
A More Efficient Clinical Workflow
Robotics can help a hospital admin simple routine tasks. It will directly reduce the physical demand on a caregiver and make for a much more consistent healthcare process. This is one of the biggest advantages of robots. It can also be used for inventory management and logistics, which are crucial to a hospital. Also, delegating stuff like cleaning and hygiene to a robot can be a much better choice in many cases, as it can maintain a sanitized and sterilized environment, which is necessary for quality healthcare.
Error Free Drug Administration
Humans make mistakes, but when they are in an intensive environment like healthcare, such mistakes can easily cost a life. There are many cases of medical negligence where the wrong drug is administered to a different patient. Such cases can be curbed using robotics. The correct dosage and timing can be planned and programmed into an autonomous drug delivery system.
Rehabilitation is tough for everyone involved in it. Humans have emotions, and sometimes they simply can’t get a handle on things, causing issues. A robot, applied in a rehabilitation regime, can solve a lot of this worry. Not only will it free up time by providing a customized training routine, but it can also free the human capital for a much more personalized experience.
A hospital can be a dangerous place to work. There is always a risk of exposure to some diseases. But when we introduce robots to this equation, such risks go down fast. Employing robots for sanitization can easily limit your healthcare staff’s exposure to any unwanted pathogens. Such robots are also better at manual labor, such as moving heavy equipment or shifting patients, reducing the overall strain on a care provider.
Aid in Surgeries and other complex medical procedures
Robots can also aid in medical procedures. They can work alongside a surgeon in an autonomous capacity or as a tool. Robotics ultimately increases the precision of surgery. Robots are also better at handling complex surgical procedures as they allow the surgeon far more flexibility, precision, control, and vision. They have also reduced infection risks as the incision is now so much smaller, which results in a shorter hospital stay. All this also improves a patient’s recovery time.
Different Types of Robots in Healthcare
Today, we have different types of robots in healthcare, in various capacities. These robots have already changed the way we look at healthcare, and going by the trend, the future looks bright.
Surgical robots have evolved alongside motion control technologies. These robots have excelled in both speed and accuracy, even when engaging in complex operations. These robots are autonomous and can also serve as mechanical tools. Furthermore, there is now AI support, making these robots smarter. Now these robots are also able to differentiate between different types of tissues. It is expected that in the future, such robots will perform surgery on their own.
Modular robots are such that they enhance other robotic systems. They are capable of customization and are capable of performing a varying degree of tasks. These robots can aid in therapy and rehabilitation. Furthermore, in the future, these robots will be able to aid a wheelchair-bound patient as well. Some examples of modular robots are exoskeleton robots and prosthetic limbs.
Autonomous Mobile Robots
Autonomous Mobile Robots, or AMRs, are the new face of healthcare robotics. They are capable of assisting with sanitization, disinfection, telepresence, drug delivery, logistics, inventory management, and so on. These robots turn a hazardous working environment into a safe space by actively contributing to the various aspects of a healthcare system. Often, AMRs are installed with LiDAR and are capable of self-navigating their surroundings. Thus, they are also enough for patient transfer and movement. Also, you can manually control an AMR for extra caution.
Service robots are engaged in the daily tasks of a hospital, reducing the burden on human capital. By handling routine schedules and taking care of logistics and other minute tasks, you can free up much-needed nurses and other support staff. It can result in increased patient care quality. Such robots are sufficient for cleaning, maintaining beds, taking out trash, and other miscellaneous jobs. If used properly, they can also take care of the restocking needs of a hospital.
We also have social robots involved in healthcare. Such robots excel as companions and can result in increased patient recovery. They are also suitable for patient rehabilitation and social interactions. They are programmed to be friendly and accurately capture emotions. We can use social robots for elder care as well. These provide comprehension and often much-needed encouragement to the patient. Also, using social robots frees up human resources, which can be spent on a deeper level of social interaction and counseling.
The last robot on the list is not actually real. It exists only in theory. However, with the current technological advancement, it is possible that soon we will be dealing with microbots, and that too in healthcare. It is theorized that one day we might see minuscule robots that can even travel through a patient’s bloodstream, performing in-body surgeries. Such means will truly revolutionize healthcare, as it is far more effective to work on the inside of a body than on the outside. And microbots, being as small as human cells, will be at the helm of this miracle.
And not only operations and surgeries; it is also believed that microbots can even replace some of the pharmaceuticals we use today, working as a much better alternative. Although creating such small robots is a herculean task. As of now, there is still time to enjoy the benefits of this research. But keep your fingers crossed.