Till a few years back, it was impossible to fathom the idea that robots could be used as a helping hand in the way healthcare organisations are managed. Fast-forward a few decades. The advancement in technology has evolved robotics to such an extent that healthcare organisations are now considering it for enhanced patient care, waste reduction, and cost savings and to develop efficiencies within the organisation.
Automation driven by advanced digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics can play an effective role in boosting the efficiency of healthcare professionals by automating tasks that are monotonous and repetitive but require persistent attention to detail. It can not only reduce the burden on healthcare professionals but also allow them to focus on important tasks and spend time with patients. Additionally, robotics can also assist healthcare organisations to deal with the shortage of healthcare workers, including nurses, doctors, and allied healthcare professionals.
Robotics application in healthcare
The applications of robotics in healthcare range from simple laboratory tasks to complex surgeries. Surgical robots can execute operations on their own or aid human surgeons. Other than that, robotics is also being used in labs and hospitals for repetitive tasks, rehabilitation, and physical therapy and to support patients with long-term conditions.
The global medical robotics market is expected to reach $20 billion by 2023. Here's a look at the promising applications of robotics in healthcare.
Surgical assistance robots
The progress of motion control technologies has enabled surgical-assistance robots to become more precise. Such robots are assisting surgeons and doctors to achieve high levels of accuracy and speed while performing complex surgical procedures with computer vision-capable and AI-enabled technologies.
Surgical robots are replacing open surgeries, which were the preferred method for most internal procedures. They not only make the procedures accurate and easy but also reduce the risk of complications and infections. Additionally, robots are also being pre-programmed to carry out common orthopaedic surgeries like knee and hip replacements. AI helps robots to be trained in certain orthopaedic surgeries, with accurate direction on where to perform and how to perform the surgery.
Autonomous mobile robots
Healthcare organisations are increasingly implementing autonomous mobile robots to help with critical requirements such as telepresence, delivery of medical supplies and medication, and disinfection, as well as to free up professionals so that they can spend more time with patients.
When these robots are equipped with mapping capabilities, visual computing or LiDAR (light detection and ranging) systems, they can self-navigate hospital or exam rooms, allowing doctors to interact from a safe distance. When controlled by a remote specialist, they can also accompany physicians as they make rounds in the hospital, allowing a specialist to contribute through an on-screen consultation regarding patient care and diagnostics.
Some robots are also assisting healthcare organisations before patients’ check-ins. For instance, an autonomous robot developed in Mexico is helping medical staff to deal with high-risk COVID patients. It triages every patient by taking their medical history, temperature, and blood oxygen level when they arrive at the hospital.
The benefit of social robots is that they can interact with humans directly. These robots can be utilised in long-term care scenarios to provide monitoring and social interaction. They may help patients to follow their treatment regimens or contribute towards cognitive engagement, helping them be alert and positive. They can also offer directions to patients and visitors inside the hospital environment.
The basic purpose of service robots is to reduce the burden on healthcare professionals by automating routine logistical tasks. The majority of service robots can function autonomously and even send reports after completing a task. The robots are capable of setting up patient rooms, tracking supplies, filing purchase orders, restocking medical supplies, and transporting bed linens from and to laundry facilities. They can assist also with disinfection and cleaning. These service robots may use UV light, air filtration, or hydrogen peroxide vapours to help reduce the risk of infection and sanitise places in a uniform manner.
Robotics is already bringing a paradigm shift in healthcare services, and more is expected over the years, with advancements in technology. Therefore, it becomes imperative for healthcare organisations to look at the long-term benefits and immense potential of robotic technologies and invest in them to better manage their organisations.