When the term “robot” is evoked, a series of preconceived notions flush the brain. Many may think of sleek, humanoid machines. Others may imagine less upright machines, but more feasible designs such as programmable arms on a factory floor. Regardless of the image that enters your head, there’s a way we’ve come to define the term “robot” as these pieces of tech have started to bleed into the mainstream of several businesses, going so far as to even prompt the adoption of robotics in healthcare. 

A “Robot” is a programmable machine able to carry out a complex sequence of actions automatically. 

With a definition such as this, it becomes easy to see just why the topic of robots has begun to flow into the consciousness of healthcare providers specifically. The applications of such an autonomous piece of hardware, if implemented effectively and operated by reliable medical grade computer systems, can provide a host of benefits to the way we deliver care and treat patients. 

What are the Healthcare Robotics Types?

On the topic of versatility, robotics in healthcare have been expanding the scope of their abilities for quite some time. From menial, repetitive tasks to more advanced, involved procedures, healthcare robotics and their abilities hardly end with only one or two unique applications. Truth of the matter is, they could become a staple throughout every part of a given patient’s healthcare journey. 

Below are a few of the more popular healthcare robotics types.  

Surgical Robots

Robotic surgery may sound too good to be true- like the fever dreams of a brilliant sci-fi writer, yet, we’re seeing it developed and applied to great effect in the modern age! In 2019, the first documented case of a fully remote surgery was recorded. 

What made this possible was burgeoning 5G networks. Several 5G healthcare use cases have been discovered due to the incredibly low latency involved in machines connected to the new gen network. When these networks are paired with a 4k medical computer, it is no wonder that remote surgery is starting to become normalized.  Due to this drop in latency and increase in the responsiveness of remote controlled technology, a surgeon was actually able to operate a robotic arm from a remote distance and use it to insert a stimulation device in the brain of a Parkinson’s patient.

The implications of this procedure are huge for the healthcare sector that has currently been rocked by the explosive increase in demand over telehealth technology and long distance care. Should 5G healthcare become reliable enough to become the normal mode of delivering treatment, we could see many more innovative applications such as this in the future. 

Hospital Robots

Hospital robots, unlike surgery-optimized robotics in healthcare, are developed in order to run more menial tasks- tasks that would otherwise eat away at the limited bandwidth of a nurse or physician who could be using that time to care for a patient. 

Robotics such as these are much more prevalently employed in healthcare facilities since there’s less inherent risk involved in their use. Aethon’s automated robot, for example, is a hospital robot capable of utilizing WiFi connectivity and pre-programmed maps of a given healthcare facility in order to run deliveries of pharmacy medication, patient meals, robes, and more. While not as impressive as remote surgical applications, hospital robots are a use case that can be employed today in order to combat burnout in nurses who are often so slammed with responsibilities that they’re hardly able to do what brought them to the healthcare sector in the first place: care for patients. 

Care Robots

If hospital robots are designed to assist the healthcare staff, care robots are created to assist patients. Care robotics in healthcare take more of a human, personable approach to treatment, assisting patients who are found in very trying times and experiencing a fair share of stress. Because of this focus on empathy and personalization, care robots in facilities often take the shape and speaking patterns of people to bridge that gap between man and machine. 

Healthcare chatbot use cases, for example, have seen resounding success for their ability to deliver care, information, and assistance with empathy. By adopting human speech patterns and sometimes even a digitized human appearance, these robotics have helped elderly patients set appointments, remember to take medication, and even connect with care providers in the case of an emergency. 

Exoskeletons

Exoskeletons are pieces of hardware that allow patients to regain control of their bodies thanks to robotic integration. Many of them use sensors placed on a patient’s skin that can respond to electrical signals, allowing the robot to move the prosthetic body part in the desired way.

What Benefits do we See with Robotics in Healthcare?

Many of the inherent benefits of robotics in healthcare are rather self-explanatory. Automated tasks mean less stress on the care-giving staff and more attention-focused patient care. However, the benefits hardly end there. 

One of the biggest repercussions of excessive healthcare provider burnout is the increased rate of human error. The more exhausted both physically and emotionally a staff member, the more likely they are to let little issues and slip ups in care occur, resulting in lost efficiency, poor patient outcomes, and more burnout, resulting in a vicious cycle we’ve seen chew up and spit out so many well-meaning providers. Having robots on hand to handle more menial tasks like deliveries or answering commonly asked patient questions can cut down on costly human error while also giving staff the breathing room they need to perform the rest of their responsibilities with pinpoint efficiency. 

Not only does this help facilities treat more patients, it helps them treat more patients with higher success and positive outcomes, lowering hospital readmission rates that could penalize them quite a bit of money.

What is the Future of Robotics in Healthcare

Care robots and hospital robots see repeated use in the current day. Their use has actually increased quite a bit as the need for telehealth initiatives call for new, remote means of care that don’t compromise on empathetic interaction. 

As far as surgical robotics in healthcare examples, we’ve observed an increase in their adoption for minimally invasive procedures for a few years. According to a study by JAMA, 3 out of 4 hospitals actually offered robot-assisted surgery in 2018, with nearly 3 times more surgeons within facilities that offered these treatments opting to use robots than not. Of course, this is only for common, non-invasive procedures where the use of robots provide very low risk. For more invasive, remote procedures, 5G will need to deploy and be proven to work safely within the healthcare infrastructure. Nevertheless, promising progress is being made and, like we mentioned, it’s been proven to be possible.

In regards to exoskeleton robotics in healthcare examples, output of expensive hardware like sensors and personally fit hardware will need to increase in order to drive down costs and make their use more viable.

Robotics in Healthcare Examples Could be Just About Anything

 It’s very likely we won’t truly know what’s to come in the world of healthcare robotics since they will be shaped entirely by what the modern/future age will need. For example, we’re just now seeing a rise in automated disinfection robots such as one developed by MIT that utilizes UV rays to disinfect entire rooms predominantly due to rising concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll never know what the future will hold, but it’s very likely robotics in healthcare will adapt their abilities and use cases to whatever that future holds. If you want more information on how you can prepare to implement these robotics of the future with currently available medical hardware, contact an expert from Cybernet today.