How are robots changing healthcare?

February 24, 2020

Dr Manohar T, Chief Urologist for Advanced Urology, Laser, Laparoscopy and Robotics, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital Yeshwanthpur, gives an insight on how rapid advancement in the field of robotics is certain to facilitate effective outcomes in the management of diseases

From the stone age of handmade tools to the 21st century technological age of gadgets, man has evolved leaps and bound. From the times of washing clothes with hands to now fully automatic machines doing this, from the times of handwriting the accounts to now have computers and calculators for it, from animal-driven wheel carts to self-driven cars, from writing letters as a means of communication to making live video calls in any part of the world, from simple LAN phones to super-smart cell phones that literally contain everything, humans have come a long way in advancement of machines and technology and also the dependency on it.

Like all other sectors that have been touched upon by technological advancement and gadgets, the healthcare sector to is significantly changing not just in the form of new medicines and treatment options but also with digital technology aiding doctor in better diagnosis and more accurate treatment. Development of medical robots is one such man-machine innovations in the medical field

The rapid advancement in the field of robotics is certain to facilitate effective outcomes in the management of some diseases. This does not mean machines are replacing doctors. It is just that the use of robots aids the medical profession to get accurate results with minimum interphase. Robotic surgery, for instance, is eventually being deemed by many as a safer than open surgery, simply because it means lesser handling of tissues, precise reach to the operative site, lesser blood loss and lesser infections

Why robotic surgery is preferred?

  • It is considered by many as safer and more precise
  • The hospital stay is reduced
  • Lesser risk of infection
  • Decreased pain and discomfort
  • Faster recovery
  • Lessened blood loss and transfusions
  • Smaller scars as the robot’s limit injury to the affected area

Though the cost of infrastructure is high and specialised training requirements for those operating via robots, the novelties displayed by robotics in medicine is proving that they are not just useful but also critical in modern medicine.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is swiftly making its way in our lives and is being used in medicine in many ways with several applications to analyse complicated medical data, compute information, and assist physicians in improving the outcomes of treatments for the patients, etc. and the potential only looks limitless.

Importance of robotics in medicine are:

  • Robots act as medical assistants, entering patient vitals from monitors to electronic medical records
  • Remote-controlled robots are also being by surgeons who operate them from a console
  • For telepresence, that allows physicians to examine patients in remote locations and provide them with the necessary treatment
  • Rehabilitation robots are playing a significant role in the recovery of people with disabilities by helping them improve mobility, strength, coordination etc.
  • Robots are also being used for medical transportation to deliver medicines, meals to patients and staff, in addition to optimising communication
  • Many healthcare facilities have started using robots to clean and disinfect surfaces, especially with the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria and outbreaks of deadly infections like Ebola
  • Comparatively safe and less invasive surgeries

Following are a few medical robots that have marked their presence:

daVinci

Becoming standard for Robot-Assisted Surgery, daVinci has been obscuring differences between ‘robots’ and ‘medical tools’ by being under the complete control of the surgeon and aiding the operations to be conducted with only a few tiny incisions very precisely allowing less bleeding, quicker healing and reduces infection risk.

Orthoses (Exoskeletons)

By providing extra support to the weak muscles, exoskeletons are being used to assist paralyzed people in walking again, correct malformations, for rehabilitation after spinal cord injuries, etc.

Disinfectant bots

Like it or not, hospitals can be among the most unhygienic places making rooms for treatments for various diseases but also housing infections and can sometimes become the breeding ground for some of the worst antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Hence it becomes crucial to ensure sanitation and cleanliness at all times in the hospitals and that is where the modern disinfecting robots are proving of great use as they autonomously move room to room of discharged patients and get rid of every tiny microorganism left alive through high-powered UV rays.

Clinical Training Bots

These are a saving grace for many surgeons for whom practical learning happened either while on the job or on cadavers. But with these bots, they have a chance at first-hand treatment with these life-sized trainees having realistic blood to make sure the surgeons know what they are doing when they are put at it.

Companion Bots

For people who are exposed to chronic loneliness and lack stimulation like the elderly or disabled and also the ones who require regular check-ups with constant care, companion robots are a boon solving all these problems at a single shot.

Robotic nurses

From filling digital paperwork to measure important symptoms and monitor the patient’s condition, etc. some of these robotic nurses are actually easing the over-burdened nurses who are the centre of life at a hospital.

Actuated and sensory prostheses, endoscopy bot, targeted therapy micro-robot, telepresence robot surrogates, pharma-botics, AI diagnostics, Robotic Assisted Biopsy, AI epidemiology, Antibacterial Nanorobots, etc. are some of the other robotic advancements that medical industry has witnessed. As the human mind matures and technological exposure enhances, men, will certainly strive for creating more intelligent and capable surgical bots soon.