The Robotics Revolution in Healthcare Part I
Robots have been designed for an unbelievable variety of applications. They will clean our house, drive our cars, and even play air hockey with us. Robotic development, however, also continues to fill in the gray area between technology and human life. The rapid advancements in this field are particularly exciting for the field of healthcare through two types of applications; so let’s take a peek into these to find out more on the future of robotics in medicine:
Robotics control and organize medical treatment
We classify these as “servicing robots”. These types of robots have been significant in increasing efficiency in monotonous clinical tasks. For example, many new robots are being designed to separate pharmaceuticals or dispense pills and have proven to be three times more efficient than the annual hospital employee. Other types of service robots have been used to simulate clinical scenarios for training and practice.
The future of servicing robots will look into the finer details of monotonous task replacement and will continue to increase productivity in hospital settings. There have been several projects that build entirely new nurse robots that can even simulate the sensitive touch of a human nurse.
Robotics serve as medical treatment themselves
Here is where it really gets interesting. We classify these as “monitoring robots” because they can monitor and sometimes even treat illnesses in or on the human body. These types of robots are less widely used and have taken much more clinical research due to the intricacy of their applications. They can theoretically be implanted or swallowed and track health internally, or be placed on the skin to monitor vitals and environmental conditions. One particular miniature implanted robot looks for blood clots and cleverly uses bacteria as a motor to propel itself through the blood vessels.
Though these types of robots make for awesome headlines in healthcare, we may not see much of them in clinical practice in the immediate future. Technology behind robotics is developing more rapidly than most of us even know, but we may see a lag in the implementation of robotics into healthcare. Big players (Google, Intuitive, NASA, etc.) will likely keep buying out smaller robotics companies and stay behind the scenes with most of their developments. Other developments will take time to be integrated as actual medical treatments. Something to look for would be the transformation of current robots that perform non-medical tasks (such as robot soldiers) migrating back into more fragile healthcare applications (robot nurses).
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