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News Article

The Future of Medicine: Robotics

By Miriam Bello | Tue, 07/06/2021 - 17:31

Robots are already a reality in medicine but their use is becoming increasingly widespread thanks to the support they provide medical professionals by relieving them from routine tasks. Moreover, robots are also used to support safer medical procedures and reduce the costs patients pay.

Robots have a long history in healthcare. According to Intel, the first robot in the medical field was used in the 1980s to offer surgical assistance. Now, robots have numerous applications outside of operating rooms and have demonstrated their efficiency in clinical settings by supporting health workers and enhancing patient care. During the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals and clinics began deploying robots for a much wider range of tasks to help reduce exposure to pathogens.

Among their main benefits is the high-quality patient care they offer in minimally invasive procedures. They also offer customized and frequent monitoring for patients with chronic diseases, intelligent therapeutics and social engagement for elderly patients. Robots can also streamline routine tasks to reduce the physical demands on human workers and ensure more consistent processes. Additionally, robots foment a safe work environment as they keep healthcare workers safe by transporting supplies and linens in hospitals where pathogen exposure is a risk. Robotics are also used on drug development, pharmacy dispensing or to enhance health accessibility.

Here are its most common uses:

Surgical assistance

These robots help doctors perform complex micro procedures without making large incisions. Some options integrate AI to have a computer vision of specific areas of the body. At times, robots can also enable the doctor to complete tasks remotely.

Modular robots

These include therapeutic exoskeleton robots and prosthetic arms and legs. One example are the robots produced by Mexican startup Roki Robotics. The company developed a fully electric exoskeleton weighing only 25 kg to help a person with paralysis to stand up. Norberto Velázquez, Founder of Roki Robotics, told MBN that to support this robot, the company also developed an application for a Samsung smartwatch. “This allows us to calculate how many steps the user took in one day, weekly or monthly. The smartwatch serves mainly to monitor in real-time what the robot is doing.”

Service robots

These robots carry out administrative, logistic tasks. They can be set up at patient rooms or support the supply chain of a hospital or pharmaceutical distribution chain. Furthermore, robots can be placed in situations potentially harmful for humans and work as medical dispenser systems by moving heavy boxes or testing solutions. Robots are also widely used to disinfect spaces such as hospitals or clinics. 

Social robots

These are the ones in contact with patients; they can be found on telemedicine solutions and perform follow-ups or monitoring. One example is the Yana chatbot, which uses AI to support mental health. “The chatbot is able to identify 12 cognitive distortions,” explained to MBN Andrea Campos, Founder and Director of Yana. “Personalized responses allow us to identify which distortions apply to our users. These distortions are not mutually exclusive and people can have overlapping distortions.”

Autonomous robots

Robots controlled by a remote specialist or another worker can accompany doctors as they make hospital rounds, allowing the specialist to contribute to the patient’s diagnostics and care. Medica Sur introduced this type of robots last year during the introduction of its “Hospital Digital” system. These autonomous robots are able to move in 360 degrees, recognize faces, record information and allow patients to interact with doctors. The robot is managed via Wi-Fi connection and is monitored by doctors. These robots reduce the number of people who have to be physically in a room, while allowing consultations with doctors who are on another floor or outside of the hospital.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
Intel, Siemens
Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst