In the medical profession, robots are revolutionizing surgery, speeding supply delivery, cleaning, and allowing doctors to focus on engaging with and caring for patients. The earliest medical robots, which appeared in the 1980s, provided surgical help via robotic arm technologies. AI-enabled computer vision and data analytics have changed medical robots throughout the years, expanding their capabilities into many other healthcare sectors. Robots are now utilized in clinical areas to assist healthcare personnel and improve patient care, in addition to the operating room.
By accomplishing monotonous, repetitive, and administrative chores, robotics in the healthcare sector allow businesses to free up staff time for other vital, non-automated jobs. Robotics in healthcare also reduces time-consuming visits, shortens operation duration, creates individualized therapies, and increases surgery success rates. Robots in surgical environments improve surgeon ergonomics and comfort, allowing for higher procedural volumes because surgeons are less tired. Robots also aid in the elimination of human error in high-risk procedures. They can also help train the next generation of medical professionals, as we will discover next.
Robotics training medical professionals
Robots are increasingly being employed in the training of medical personnel. Virtual Reality (VR) training is one method. The learner puts on a virtual reality mask and “sees” an operating room with a team of assistants. The VR system recognizes voice commands. The student can address members of the virtual team by name. The student can guide medication administration in a specified dosage, among other options. A good application for VR training is the treatment of heart attacks. Robotic patient simulators (RPS) provide a safe and realistic teaching environment. Mannequins have been utilized in the past; however, they cannot respond. The absence of a response restricts the training’s authenticity.
Simulators are not new in health care teaching and training. One of the most well-known is Resuscitation Annie. This doll has taught thousands of medical professionals how to perform CPR. Simulators, on the other hand, are becoming increasingly significant in medical training at all levels, especially as technology advances to enable healthcare personnel to practice how to react to emergency circumstances or complex cases that they may not always see in hands-on medical training. In addition, it allows us to have clinical personnel exercise and establish muscle memory so that they are ready to respond swiftly in an emergency or care need.
Another area that is being explored further within healthcare training is artificial intelligence. In a manner that many computer-driven algorithms can’t, AI allows those in training to go through realistic simulations. The ability of an artificially intelligent machine to draw instantaneously from an extensive database of events means that its reaction to questions, decisions, or recommendations may challenge students in ways that humans can’t. For example, it could help analyze the difference for someone considering studying for a DNP vs. MSN in seconds, ensuring the correct, tailored learning experience. And because the training program can learn from the trainee’s initial responses, the challenges may be continuously changed to match their educational requirements. This can take place anywhere; with apps installed on a smartphone, for example, quick recap sessions will be available after a complex case in a clinic or when traveling. And there are many other benefits to using robotics within a healthcare setting.
Benefits of robotics in healthcare
While there are concerns about computers replacing people in the workforce, there are benefits to redistributing responsibilities. For example, machines do not require sleep or food and will never complain about repeating the same dull jobs for the thousandth time. As a result, we can see why healthcare robots could take over administrative or repetitive activities that people want to avoid, allowing doctors, medical professionals, and nurses to devote their valuable time to the job they signed up for – caring for the sick and vulnerable. Here are some of the main advantages of using robotics in healthcare.
Provide a better work environment
Heavy lifting by robots, such as shifting hospital beds or lifting patients, eliminates some workplace hazards for healthcare staff. Furthermore, carrying linens and supplies through service robots can reduce exposure to germs and viruses. Moreover, cleaning and disinfection robots can be used more regularly, lowering the chance of infections among healthcare professionals, visitors, and patients.
Improved patient outcomes
Because robotic surgery requires fewer incisions than traditional surgery, it reduces the risk of infection and results in a shorter hospital stay. In addition, it reduces bleeding and transfusions, as well as the period of the patient’s recovery, because it is less intrusive. These also mitigate physician work while lowering stress and making the process less scary for patients.
Reduced risk of spreading infections
The COVID-19 pandemic has reignited interest in telerobotic devices allowing doctors to undertake care delivery duties remotely. Tele-nursing robots offer uses in treating immunocompromised patients, improving access to healthcare in rural regions, keeping healthcare staff safe, and decreasing the need for PPE. For example, immunocompromised patients could be given a quarantine room dedicated robot that performs all physical interactions, never interacts with the outside world, and never tires.
Eases the strain on doctors
Robots are not only beneficial to patients, but they can also relieve stress on doctors and surgeons. This is because the operations are shorter and less taxing than they would have been without the assistance of a robot. Thus, the doctors spend less time in surgery or standing in uncomfortable positions.
Challenges robotics face
With everything in life, there are always two sides to everything. Robotics faces challenges that need to be addressed within the healthcare sector. Here are some of those hurdles:
Lack of emotional interaction
It is frequently highlighted as a barrier to adopting robotics. We are emotional creatures. Robots have demonstrated their ability to do nearly all the chores of a caretaker. They cannot, however, provide the same comfort of human interaction.
Another big issue in deploying robots in healthcare is social acceptance. Using robots as public assistance will indirectly publicize patients’ infirmities or ailments. While some may not mind, certain patients may object to being the center of attention, forcing them to refuse to employ robots in the future. This requires manufacturers to utilize designs that make medical robots suitable for social acceptability. It is critical that the robot’s design is not threatening and that it can blend in with the environment in which it is situated.
Nursing-care robots may be outfitted with surveillance technology to watch patients, record data, and remotely share information. Although such a feature may be valuable in protecting elderly individuals by establishing virtual proximity with families or healthcare practitioners, it may also violate patients’ privacy. Without sufficient restrictions or in the absence of acceptable organizational policies and practices, these robots’ capabilities can threaten the privacy of patients and those who work with them.
Types of robots
While some people may be uneasy with a robot conducting surgery or soothing them during a stressful situation, it is becoming more prevalent in the medical profession, where interest in medical robots in biomedical engineering is growing. Engineers have compelling reasons to create robots for use within the healthcare industry. Robots, unlike humans, are relentless, and their “limbs” will not shake. They can conduct precise movements that extend past the range of motions a doctor has and can stay with patients for as long as needed. Furthermore, they can automate less skilled or repetitive operations while leaving the highly skilled tasks to doctors. Here are five robots used in organizations and medical facilities to improve patient outcomes:
1. Surgical Robots
Robotic surgery helps surgeons to complete a wide variety of challenging procedures with better control, flexibility, and precision than conventional techniques. Robotic surgery is commonly connected with minimally invasive surgery, performed through small incisions. However, it is also utilized in some conventional open surgical procedures. The most standard healthcare robotic surgical system comprises a camera arm and mechanical arms, which has surgical tools attached. The doctor directs the parts from a computer station near the operating table. The console shows them a high definition, enlarged 3D picture of the surgical area. The doctor then leads other team members that assist throughout the procedure from the computer.
Exoskeletons are wearable machines that allow humans to enhance themselves. An exoskeleton can be built of hard materials (such as plastic or metal) or soft materials, depending on its function (like fabric). Furthermore, some are motorized or electrical, while others are mechanical and unpowered. Passive exoskeletons are unpowered and primarily function mechanically by shifting weight from one body section to another. One common way they operate is to transfer weight from the arms and shoulders to the core or leg muscles. This reduces arm fatigue and spreads the weight more evenly, lowering the risk of strain and damage.
On the other hand, electric exoskeletons can provide the wearer with additional strength and functionality. However, because such exoskeletons require power, they are often heavier and bulkier to accommodate the gear and batteries. They also need charging and may have limited battery life.
3. Care robots
Robots have advanced significantly. They have aided human activities for years by allowing exploration in dangerous and inaccessible regions such as outer space and deep within the oceans. A new generation of robots is being developed to care for older adults and young children at home. In the not-too-distant future, elderly individuals living alone may be reminded to take their medication, have novels read to them, and be offered a symbolic shoulder to cry on – all by a robot. As America’s population ages, putting pressure on healthcare services, robots could be a valuable option. Several robots are being created as companions to assist the elderly in living independently for longer.
4. Hospital robots
Hospital robots are already transporting medications, meals, and specimens throughout hospitals today, thanks to a pre-programmed architecture of their environment and built-in sensors. The ability to complete contactless sanitization has become more critical for the health and safety of patients and healthcare employees due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Hospital robots are beginning to take over sanitizing rooms and areas, removing the need for hospital personnel to come into contact with any dangerous germs.
5. Laboratory robots
Laboratory automation, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and drug discovery are all expanding robotics applications. Robots have enormous potential in various domains, from R&D to enhancing throughput by bringing pharmaceuticals to market faster and at a lower cost to customers. In the future, we will see robots performing various tasks in various domains. For example, robotic systems are used in clinical laboratories for test tube sorting in multiple operations such as dispensing, labeling, and capping. Robots handle test tubes, sort them and play an essential role in drug discovery.
Medical robots make healing faster, safer, and smarter for caregivers and patients. Medical robots relieve stress and staffing shortages for nurses and healthcare teams. In addition, robots provide companionship, mobility, and tailored patient care. Robotics is an industry that is constantly evolving. This is only the beginning of medical robots. Future improvements will undoubtedly transform healthcare by enabling intuitive healing based on cutting-edge technology.
Healthcare robots are projected to improve healthcare service delivery’s quality, operational efficiencies, accuracy, and safety via new applications and functionalities. AI advancements will provide a new dimension to robotics. Integrating artificial intelligence and robotics will make the process faster and safer. Aside from that, data analytics and advances in hardware and software systems will broaden the scope of robots in other healthcare disciplines. The investment and collaboration between robotic firms and healthcare providers will further drive the healthcare robotics market.