In this new era of emerging technology, the global health ecosystem has been evolving at a rapid pace. Medical robots are changing healthcare.
Professor Noel Sharkey is a robotics expert at Sheffield University and he explains how a patient’s typical visit to the hospital and their treatment, has already begun to look a lot different to years gone by.
“We have St. George’s Hospital in Scotland for instance, where it’s a robot hospital. And what that means is that robots are doing a lot of the assistive work like taking laundry around the place and delivering patients to the surgery. So you normally have someone come with the trolley and put the patient on, whereas this trolley comes by itself, someone loads them up and takes them off to the surgeon.”
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But what about once a patient reaches the operating table? Sharkey says robots are actually being used quite a lot during surgery. He says an example is tele-operated handles which allow them to turn their wrists 360 degrees.
“I see a really good future for these because they’re beginning to get tactile feedback on them as well, and that means, when you start cutting with a saw or scalpel, you’ll be able to feel the force in your hands and that’s going to be better.”
So if surgeries are becoming easier to perform thanks to robotic help, what about using robots to rehabilitate patients?
“There are some extraordinary advancement being made. So you’ve got to move your arm in a particular way, like 300 times every day and it needs to be guided; now that will drive anybody crazy, nobody is going to sit there and go move your arm 300 times. Now people are building robots that’ll do this. You just put your hand in the robot and it will guide you back and forward. The robot doesn’t care if it’s there for five months doing it, they don’t get bored at all, and they’re just machines. So lifting your leg, doing all that kind of therapeutic physiotherapy is really good.”
Many of these technologies are already being implemented and their success is unquestionable, but what does the future hold? Could we see hospitals run by machines…without a human in sight? Well, believe it or not, technologies are currently being created that could make this future a reality.
“I can see this happening at some point in the future where routine operations could become, you just walk in and speak to a machine that diagnoses you an then you get on the conveyor belt and go through, come out the other side and you are well enough to go home; I could imagine that really. You know, a real surgeon comes and sees you and alleviates your worry, and just going and talking to a machine and getting on a conveyor belt would not be my idea of getting my worry alleviated.”
Physicians, nurses and technicians are the backbone of patient care, however, robots help hospitals save costs, reduce waste, and improve patient care. For that’s what technology is all about, improving our quality of life.