We’re all familiar with factory automation, or the use of machines, computers, and similar technologies to improve productivity in manufacturing. But can that same technology, like robotics, be used in healthcare? 

It already has: surgical robotics have been used since 1985, when a robotic arm was used to perform a stereotactic brain biopsy. Since then, numerous medical robots have found their way into the healthcare systems. Today’s post covers some of the ways robotics is transforming medicine from surgery to comforting patients. 

Benefits of Robotics in Healthcare 

Most factory automation provides benefits in the consistency of products, the reduction of waste, greater productivity, and increased worker safety. Benefits from using robotics in medicine have a similar breakdown. Two include: 

Provide High-Quality Patient Care

Robots can be built to go beyond the boundaries of the human body, like sight and manipulation. Surgical robots can allow surgeons to perform certain operations, like minimally invasive surgeries, with far greater precision and fewer risks. The result is an increase in the rate of success and improved recovery time.

Select kinds of robots can engage elderly and disabled patients in conversation. This way, they do not suffer from pain or boredom. The robots work in tandem with the empathy and care nurses and other caregivers provide, promoting long-term well-being.

Help Streamline Clinical Workflows

Inventory tracking is a necessary and routine part of hospitals. Unfortunately, many are understaffed, which can lead to shortages and mismanagement. Medical facilities, in response, are turning to certain kinds of mobile robots to handle the work. They ensure supplies, equipment, and medication are in stock where they are needed. 

Sanitation is another essential task. Every part of a hospital, from the walls of a patient’s room to a medical-grade computer’s IP65 screen, must be wiped down frequently to avoid possible infection. Cleaning and disinfection mobile robots can free healthcare workers to focus more on patients and other value-driven work.

Types of Robots in Healthcare 

Robotics in healthcare has been broken down into numerous types or kinds to reflect their use or specialty in the sector.

  • As their names imply, surgical-assistance robots are built to provide aid for existing surgical treatments. They do so by enhancing the surgeon’s skills. The Da Vinci robot by Intuitive Surgical is the most well-known example of this medical robot
  • Autonomous mobile robots, or AMRs, perform various tasks throughout a hospital or clinic. AMRs can carry waste bins from the hospital kitchen or supply area, for example. Or aid in transporting patients from their rooms to other departments. Mobile robots travel along a wire or predefined track. In contrast, autonomous ones are controlled by providers remotely via a medical tablet.
  • Preparing patient rooms, tracking supplies, and restocking medical supply cabinets mentioned earlier are performed by service robots. 
  • Nursing robots automatically monitor patients’ vital signs as they’re transported throughout the hospital. 
  • Medical robots in the shape of exoskeletons are placed on patients suffering severe injuries or disabilities. They provide both aid and support as the patient relearns movements like walking. 

Artificial Intelligence and Robotics

Artificial intelligence (AI) predates robotics in medicine, tracing its history back to the early 50s. Though recent, its use in the healthcare sector has also been explosive. AI, along with machine learning (ML), deep learning (DL), and similar technologies, is being used to:

  • Aid in diagnostics by sorting and organizing data far faster than humans. 
  • Automate many tedious or time-consuming tasks like appointment scheduling.
  • Look for patterns in data to provide predictions.   
  • Converse effectively with patients and even medical staff via AI-driven chatbots.

Artificial intelligence inroads in robotics for healthcare is on the cutting edge for both technologies. Some of the ways medical groups are looking to leverage the combo include:

  • Robots with humanoid designs conversing with patients to keep their aging minds focused and sharp. 
  • The robotic arm sutures the patient’s cut after an operation, a task usually performed by the surgeon or their surgical staff.
  • Scan and complete an ultrasound on a patient without guidance from the technician. 

Challenges of Robotics in Healthcare

Medical robots’ advantages and benefits are numerous, and they continue to grow by leaps and bounds. Still, bringing them to your nearest medical office or facility has challenges. Three are lack of patient trust, training issues, and making sure they’re safe.

  • Patient mistrust – To many patients, getting treated with robots is the stuff of science fiction or nightmares. They may balk at their use for treatment. Medical groups must reassure them those mechanical arms during surgery will improve the outcome. 
  • Lack of training and education – Medical professionals will have to be trained in the use of the various robots. Even simple ones like restocking robots will need to be worked into the hospital staff’s workflow. Providers will especially need the training, as they interact with some of the most sophisticated machines like surgical robots.  
  • Safety concerns – Unsurprisingly, safety is paramount in a sector that handles life-and-death matters daily. Medical robots are scrutinized like any other device or equipment, such as medical computers, for near-patient safety (Or, literally, in-patient use in the case of surgical robots). They also have safeguards to pause or stop operations if they inadvertently pose a danger during mundane work like stacking boxes. 

Closing Thoughts

Robotics in medicine is another form of automation in healthcare. Robots can be found in various forms, from surgical arms to autonomous mobile carriers. Virtually every area of modern medicine uses one, and while they bring many advantages, they also present challenges for medical personnel in incorporating the machines into workflows.    

Contact an expert at Cybernet if your medical group is looking to bring robots and similar automation to your medical offices, clinics, and hospitals. We’ll happily cover the advantages and challenges, and how our medical-grade computers, monitors, box PCs, and tablets can meet many of them. 

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