Robotics in Healthcare – What the Future Holds in The Post-COVID-19 World?

Attributed to Jayakrishnan T, IEEE Member and Founder & CEO, Asimov Robotics

The post-pandemic social behavior has opened up several opportunities in the healthcare robotics domain – like telemedicine and remote management of outpatients. Likewise, contactless dispensing of food medicine and consumables are made possible with the help of AMR and guided robots. Apart from this, logistics and supply chain management within hospitals and minimization of human intervention in all kinds of activities are potential use cases. ASRS (automated storage and retrieval system) is another pharma-related use case where robotics can automate medicine dispensing. 

With the advent of nanotechnology and nanorobotics, robots can be deployed through minimally invasive openings to perform complex procedures or through the bloodstream to carry out targeted drug delivery in place of open surgery and subjecting the whole body to the same laver of medication, otherwise. This not only reduces the damage of the healthy tissues but also reduces the post-operative recovery period substantially. In addition to that, assistive robots also help experienced surgeons to perform difficult procedures with ease by overcoming their physical limitations due to age.

In addition to the above, when it comes to the planning and training of various treatment procedures – 3D printing, medical imaging coupled with mixed reality helps to reduce the risk due to unforeseen difficulties by making it possible to practice the surgery on dummy models and virtual interactive models. It also helps to reduce the learning curve for junior practitioners/surgeons.

Emerging Trends in Healthcare – What Does the Sector Hold for Us?

As far as medical and healthcare applications are concerned, Consultation, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Post-treatment Caregiving are the four major areas where we can make use of intelligent robots. So, what is the overall emerging trends in healthcare – what the future holds in a post-COVID-19 world?

Tele-medicine: Due to the disproportion in patients and their access to medical aids, telemedicine is becoming increasingly important. Along with remote diagnosis, physicians can effectively utilize their time to be spent with multiple patients from multiple geographies, enabling a pool of experts from different locations to collectively address the problem and take complicated decisions. The various technologies used for telemedicine are IoT and wearables, Video Conferencing, Robotics, and Haptics along with VR.

Medical Logistics: As the number of patients under critical care increases, medical logistics are increasingly becoming important both inside the hospital as well as over long distances. There is a constant need for a supply of medicine and other clinical consumables for patients under critical care. This technology allows us to minimize the human movement and chance of error between level 3 and ICUs.

Remote rural areas and regions without transport facilities are prone to healthcare casualties due to the lack of health facilities and medical care. While inhouse logistics can be addressed by autonomous mobile platforms (AMR), medical drones provide real-time delivery of medical supplies. They have other applications such as supplying daily essentials & emergency medicines to patients without logistical constraints. Crucial medical supplies such as blood or organ transfers can be easily facilitated with cold chains, they ensure real-time delivery and lower medical wastages.

Predictive diagnosis using AI-ML: It is often seen that the mortality rate of patients with critical illness depends on the right treatment at the right time. However, it is obvious that conventional diagnostic methods based on symptoms only help to identify the ailment when it is advanced. With the current advancement in AI-ML, it is now possible to identify the onset of such problems much earlier so that physicians/surgeons get enough time to act upon them. This not only saves the life of the patients but improves the quality of the treatment as it prevents the damage of organs and their functionalities as otherwise in the case of delayed diagnosis.

Robotic surgery: Robotic surgery is one of the fast-growing and highly promising applications of technology in medicine. Robotization allows surgeons to perform highly complicated procedures with ease due to the increased dexterity coupled with advanced HD 3D vision and precise maneuverability. The system provides fully-fledged real-time connectivity of the surgeon and the area under surgery in terms of Visual, Auditory, Tactile and Haptic means. Because of this, the application of robotics surgery is not just limited to joints and abdomen but also to help procedures for heart, brain spine and almost everywhere.

Role of Robotics in Facilitating Important Medical Services in The Country:

In India, affordability and scalability are the two major factors that would enable the use of robotics technology irrespective of the use case. Robotization in the healthcare field is also not an exemption to this. Even though many of the top medical organizations in the county have implemented robots and AI-based solutions for diagnosis, treatment and surgery, the major share of the public still does not have access to these advanced facilities.

One of the most challenging aspects for Indian robotics innovators and companies is to develop affordable solutions.  However, if the government policies and private investments work in favor to manage the initial expenses, medical and healthcare robotics has a bright future in India.

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