They say health is wealth! And that is very true because, without health, humans are incapable of doing anything to their full potential. And now, robots are becoming a critical part of the healthcare industry because they can do so many things humans can’t and contribute a lot to health and wellness. After all, robots never get tired, and they even can help surgeons in conducting surgeries. They can also do the monotonous tasks done by nurses such as taking some medicines to the patients every 2 hours. They can clean the hospital floors every half hour without any complaints so that hygiene is maintained. And the best thing is that these robots are no longer science fiction but a part of real life!
Robotics is changing the healthcare industry in a lot of fundamental ways. Robots can manage the monotonous and repetitive tasks while leaving the doctors and nurses free to do the critical tasks they were trained for. This article discusses the wide variety of applications that robotics has in healthcare to make the lives of both doctors and patients much easier. So let’s see these applications now.
1. Surgical Robots
Surgeries are very traumatic experiences for many humans. They can be dangerous, especially if they are complex surgeries, and they also have a long healing time. Surgeries that go on for 10 or 12 hours can also be quite taxing for the surgeons performing them. However, now there are surgical robots that can help doctors in performing these surgeries more efficiently. These robots are fully controllable by the surgeons, and they provide higher precision and control. One such example of a surgical robot is the Vinci surgical system. This allows the surgeon a high definition 3-D view of the surgical area and also robotic instruments that can bend and rotate much more than a human hand to provide greater levels of precision. This ensures that the operation is minimally invasive and patients can recover much faster. The da Vinci robotic system has conducted more than 6 million surgeries globally with fewer complications than normal surgeries.
Imagine there were microbots that could go inside your body and heal whatever problems you have. These robots could directly enter the bloodstream and reach any place inside your body in seconds. While you may have seen this in science fiction movies only, this is fast becoming a reality! Scientists at the Max Planck Institute have been creating microbots that can travel through your bloodstream and deliver medicines or target any particular body part which is sick. These microbots have a thickness just slightly larger than the human hair, and they can travel across a variety of liquids such as your blood, lymph nodes, or even the liquid in your eyes which sounds very icky but can actually be very helpful! Another such robot is the origami robot, which is not micro-sized but can still be eaten inside a capsule. This robot can solve many problems related to the stomach such as patching up the stomach lining, removing any foreign materials in the stomach, etc.
3. Nursing Robots
Nursing is a very fulfilling job but sometimes it can be pretty boring as well! There are many routine, monotonous tasks that nurses have to perform for many patients day in and day out. These duties may be taken over by robots one day which frees the nurses to perform tasks that only humans can do which involve decision-making, creativity, and being empathetic to patients. One such robot that can replace a nursing task is the Venipuncture robot. It is stressful when a nurse needs to obtain your blood for some tests but cannot find the vein so has to stick in the injection needle again and again. The venipuncture robot can take over this job which would be much easier for both nurses and patients! It creates a 3-D image of the patient’s blood vessels using infrared and ultrasonic imaging which makes it much easier to find the correct veins and stick the needle.
4. Telemedical Network
What if you had a medical emergency but couldn’t immediately access a doctor because you were in a rural area? This would be a pretty stressful situation as doctors are necessary in these times. But what if technology could ensure that doctors could be immediately accessible even if you are in a rural area with no clinics or hospitals? This is achievable by various telemedical networks like Intouch Health. They offer online emergency consultations for emergency situations like burns, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems whenever they occur. Patients can access these consultations using their laptops, tabs, etc. Intouch Health has already helped in more than 750,000 clinical situations until now. Another such telemedical network is the Doctor on Demand that virtually provides physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, etc. whenever they are needed to patients 24/7 in online consultation sessions.
5. Robot Exoskeletons
Exoskeletons are robotic and mechanical devices that can be worn by humans to extend their strength and allow them to do things they wouldn’t be able to do normally. So you could lift a car using an exoskeleton but you certainly wouldn’t be able to do that in real life!!! Jokes aside, these exoskeletons are very useful for surgeons who have to stand for long hours during 10 or 12-hour surgeries. These exoskeletons help them not to become so tired which also increases their concentration in the surgery. Another application of exoskeletons is for people who have spinal injuries for some other injuries that hinder their complete range of motion. They can help partially paralyzed people learn how to walk and aid in their rehabilitation. ReWalk Robotics, a company creates exoskeletons for the rehabilitation of people who suffered strokes, spinal cord injuries, etc.
6. Disinfection Robots
It is very obvious that hospitals should be spotless to prevent infections. It would be really stupid if you go to a hospital to get cured of the infection and catch an infection at the hospital instead!!! However, it’s also an unfortunate truth that many people die because of infections acquired at hospitals. To prevent these deaths from occurring, disinfecting the hospitals regularly is extremely important. There are specific disinfectant robots that can do this using high-intensity ultraviolet light which cleans any surface quickly and thoroughly. Xenex Disinfection Services is one such company that uses LightStrike Robots to disinfect rooms using pulses of broad-spectrum UV light. These ensure that hospitals are safe and infection-free, which in turn reduces many additional sufferings and deaths because of infections acquired at hospitals.
7. Personal Care Robots
Healthcare is not just related to physical health but also to mental health. There are many people that are lonely and want someone to help them, care for them, or just be there for them. There are many cute personal care robots that can become the personal companions of many people. These robots could remind people to take their medicines on time, talk to them, or just be there if they are feeling lonely. One such example is Jibo, which is a healthcare robot that can connect you to medical devices, provide advice about nutrition as well as physical and mental health, connect you to a doctor or nurse using a video call if there are any health emergencies or just talk to you so you don’t feel alone. This is extremely helpful as nurses and doctors cannot be with patients all the time but personal care robots like Jibo can. And they can help you whenever you need help, no matter if you are at the hospital or your home.
At the end
It is obvious from all these applications that robots are becoming an integral part of the healthcare industry. And these changes are only for the better. Robots can help people walk, assist doctors and nurses, so they are able to perform their duties efficiently, provide access to healthcare in remote areas, assist people who are lonely, and create better ways to treat diseases and injuries. And all these changes are only the beginning as robotics is just getting integrated into healthcare. So let’s see what the future may bring. Who knows, things that were only possible in science fiction movies might now be a new reality!