Performing surgeries, dispensing medication, keeping company, and disinfecting rooms; can robots do these? Let’s understand it today!
Robotics in healthcare is not a new concept. The concept initially came to this world back in 1985. Since then, Global Healthcare and the idea itself have immensely developed. Why do we need robots; why can’t humans fulfill all the requirements in the healthcare sector?
The whole world is going through the darkest hour now. Thousands of people have got infected with a deadly virus, the COVID-19 and a lot of them are in critical condition, and also thousands of patients have already died from it. One of the biggest concerns that emerged with Coronavirus is the safety of healthcare workers.
“Almost 10% of Italy’s coronavirus cases are healthcare workers;” this was a dominant topic of the NY Daily News on the 22nd of March 2020.
Dr. Michelle Au is an anesthesiologist in a hospital in the US; she treats patients infected with COVID 19. Here’s what she said about the risk, “Putting in an endotracheal tube is probably one of the highest-risk procedures,” for exposure, Au said. “It is directly accessing the airway where the virus lives. It could become airborne in the period of time the tube is put in”
All these facts suggest that something is urgent and necessary. While humans are a prime part of healthcare, we need something more resistive and robust to deal with pandemics. The picture below shows the rough time that healthcare workers and doctors are currently going through.
Robots In Healthcare — Is it Practical?
Implementing highly-advanced systems is not easy and cheap. While it is difficult to predict how much money the world would need for this long-term investment, the figures would be in $billions.
We also have to focus on social norms and beliefs here. Would you meet a robot instead of a human doctor and reveal your health disorders? Are you confident about robots performing a brain surgery on your loved ones? Below is the outcome of a survey conducted on this topic:
Nevertheless, we can’t put healthcare workers at risk. If robotics in healthcare can protect humans from mass diseases, then it’s a necessary advancement for the safety of all parties.
Robotics and Artificial Intelligence
These two technologies have a well-known connection with each other. The importance of A.I. in healthcare is a fact by now. If the world had used A.I. at satisfactory levels during the past few years, we could have predicted this Coronavirus outbreak in advance and we would already have a vaccine for the virus.
More concerns are there to consider here. Surprisingly, over about 30% of people don’t prefer A.I. in healthcare yet.
Everybody should understand that health disorders get categorized into two categories; contagious and non-contagious, and healthcare workers doesn’t want to get infected while treating patients. Healthcare workers make 1/10th of the total Coronavirus patients in Italy. Can the healthcare sector survive that way?
Advantages of Robotics in Healthcare
While robots are not humans, they still can do wonders. Below is a list of benefits of implementing this advanced technology in healthcare for the betterment of it.
1) Robots are Robots
Robots don’t need food, they don’t sleep and they don’t make human errors. These are invaluable advantages that can transform healthcare into a more efficient and safer sector.
Making use of robots doesn’t mean that human involvement is cut down by 100%. Why can’t we use robots for areas where humans generally make mistakes or humans can’t handle? For example, Coronavirus can kill even the most-qualified doctor, but it can’t kill a robot! Below is a general list of advantages of using robots for everyday tasks:
2) Surgical Precision
Complex surgeries, such as brain surgeries, happen according to waiting lists. Lack of surgeons and resources are the reasons behind this delay. While even the most experienced doctor can make a critical mistake while performing a surgery, advanced robots don’t make mistakes. Efficiency and precision are two priceless advantages of implementing robotics for complex surgeries.
Some of the world’s developed countries have already understood it; the growth of the Surgical Robot Market in those countries proves it. The image below explains the growth of the surgical robot market in North America.
3) Multi-tasking and Resistance to Diseases
Robots are geniuses. You can program a robot to perform even 3-4 tasks at once, meaning 4-5 robotics can manage an entire ICU containing 10-15 beds.
Yes, nurses and doctors are doing a golden job. When we focus on their safety, the protective equipment that doctors and nurses should wear to protect themselves from COVID-19, is a significant burden. Many nurses have shared their experiences on how treating patients with protective gear is a nightmare. Healthcare workers are humans, and which is why guarding material is a weight to them. Would it be an issue for a robot? Below is an image of protective equipment recommended in the US for Coronavirus-treating healthcare personnel.
A robot may wear the same protective gear, but it won’t be a burden. Exhaustion leads to human errors. However, robots can work for hours, but they don’t feel tired or make mistakes because of typical exhaustion.
4) Robotics are like Superhumans
You may have already seen it in movies. Robots are physically strong, robust, and durable and these features are highly beneficial in healthcare. What if the elevator stops functioning, and the patient’s surgery room is on the 10th floor? In such emergencies, the robot can even lift the patient with a wheelchair and reach the 10th floor by stairs. Well, we need robots with such capabilities in the future.
These are not fairy tales; it is already happening in some countries. “Nursing home robots will bathe and hug you” this was the topic of an article posted on Digital Dying Blog back in 2016. The post is about a cute robot that can replace the traditional healthcare worker. It also says this, “The polar cub-like look is aimed at radiating an atmosphere of strength, geniality, and cleanliness at the same time. We really hope that this robot will lead to advances in nursing care, relieving the burden on caregivers.”
Disadvantages of Robotics in Healthcare
Are there any disadvantages? It’s a massive investment, meaning some of the countries may not have the capacity to afford it. Those are challenges to overcome. However, current technology may not be sufficient to implement the idea throughout the world.
Nevertheless, we have to also think of healthcare workers’ safety. Some people say that robots may become a burden on patient privacy. Rules and regulations can prevent such issues.
Robotics in healthcare doesn’t mean there’s zero human involvement. Lack of a human presence may lower patient experience, especially when treating elderly patients. We can find solutions to this issue by maintaining a sound balance between robotics and humans in healthcare.
Liability issues are another concern. In case of surgery or treatment failure, can you take action against a robot? Laws regarding such liabilities and defining the responsible party can settle things.
Robotics in healthcare is a necessary advancement to make healthcare safe, efficient, and up-to-date.
What are your thoughts? We could have fought Coronavirus better if we had this technology across the globe by now. The below image summarizes it all: