How Robots Can Enhance Treatment
Robotics has always seemed a bit futuristic. In many ways, particularly when it comes to medicine, the future is already here. Analysts expect the global market for medical robots to reach nearly $13 billion within two years. Many believe that the industry is in its infancy, with dramatic advancements anticipated over the next couple of decades.
How Are Robots Currently Being Used in Healthcare?
A number of different types of robots and robotic tools are now being used to improve medical care:
- Robots that perform or assist with surgical procedures—These are probably the most well-known medical robots, used in conjunction with AI and miniature cameras to perform minimally invasive operations. Among the common types of surgeries performed by robots are hysterectomies, prostate excisions, knee and hip replacements, and bariatric procedures.
- Robots that complete service or logistical tasks—Robots help manage healthcare employee workloads by doing things like tracking supplies, restocking medical cabinets, ordering essential materials, moving bed linens to and from laundry rooms, and even preparing patient rooms.
- Robots that facilitate patient rehab and recovery—Common examples include prostheses and therapeutic robots, which can not only replicate biological limbs but also track progress during recovery, ensure proper form when doing rehab exercises, measure performance, and even offer coaching or emotional support.
- Robots that perform routine tasks—Robots are currently being used in hospitals, rehab facilities, and other medical practices to move patients back and forth, transport heavy equipment, and even disinfect rooms. These types of robots commonly are tethered to a wire or travel along a dedicated track.
- Robots that interact with patients—Particularly in long-term recovery facilities, robots provide instructions to patients, offer reminders regarding medications or other tasks, offer positive encouragement, or otherwise enhance patient morale.
- Robots that allow medical professionals to provide care remotely—There are robots that can be operated by remote control, allowing doctors and nurses to use a phone, computer, or other device to conduct assessments and even provide certain levels of care. They are most often used in cleaning and disinfecting facilities.
Some Projected Uses of Robotics in Medicine
Scientists and medical professionals are currently working together to expand the use of robotics in healthcare. Some promising possibilities include using robots to:
- Handle most aspects of a tissue biopsy
- Fight cancer by attacking cells
- Reduce or remove plaque to reopen arteries and reduce risk of cardiac disease
- Complete lab tests without human involvement
- Deliver specific medications at appropriate times
- Treat minor issues, so that doctors can devote their time to more pressing concerns