Medical robots are expected to be a boon for the healthcare industry in the coming years. Healthcare workers will be directly impacted by more better-triaged workloads, allowing them to interact in a more efficient, effective manner with patients. Patients too will begin to experience the impact of robot technology first-hand, interfacing directly with everything from chatbots to humanoid robots as research and development funds continue to churn out new discoveries, services and products over the course of the next few years.
Here are just some of the ways that robot technology and automation will have an impact on modern healthcare.
Rehabilitation robotics is a rapidly growing research field that takes an interdisciplinary approach to improving the lives of those who suffer from ailments and conditions such as spinal problems, sensorimotor issues, and more. The robotic exoskeleton market, for instance, focuses specifically on improving the quality of life of individuals who suffer from brain trauma, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, etc.
Advanced exoskeletons are capable of mimicking human gait and providing assistance with walking and other motor tasks. This particular market is expected to grow by at least 30% over the next four years thanks to recent advances in electronics and material technology.
Exoskeletons are certainly on the impressive side of the robotics spectrum, but the power of big data and machine learning is going to fuel the use and efficiency of chatbots in the coming years. Such technology might not necessarily seem flashy at first, but its day-to-day impact is going to be impressive.
Big data can now provide a wealth of medical information to the machine learning technology behind diagnostic chatbots, allowing them to correctly classify patient symptoms and identify health problems just like a clinician might do today. In fact, in the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) has already spearheaded several pilot projects to introduce a symptom-checking chatbot app capable of triaging patients prior to accessing in-person care.
Such systems will reduce the amount of time human general practitioners spend diagnosing issues, while increasing the amount of time they can spend caring for individual patients. While current chatbot implementations are not perfect yet by any means, growing access to technology will undoubtedly continue to fuel STEM research with bright minds able to continue iterating on today’s healthcare-related obstacles and solutions.
Surgeons have already been making use of robotic surgical assistants and devices for years, making use of tools such as miniscule mechanical arms and cameras that can be controlled from a computer placed near the patient undergoing operation (there’s a reason why it’s been said that video game players may excel in the operating room). That said, as the surgical robotics market continues to expand – it’s slated to hit about $6 billion over the next two years – the use cases for robot-assisted or even fully autonomous robotic surgery will likely continue to grow and even one day become the norm.
Robotic limbs and organs
For those interested in robotics, prosthetic limbs and organs are undoubtedly a point of significant interest given the fame of iconic pop culture movies such as the Terminator, Star Wars and more. While today’s robotics curriculum won’t likely be able to walk you through a tutorial on how to replicate Darth Vader’s various robotic limbs just yet, advances in technology have actually led to the creation of prosthetics such as i-limbs as a new era of bionics beings to take off.
Even organs are beginning to undergo robotic prototyping, though this technology is still in its infancy, as research still needs to be conducted in order to understand how to work around the human body’s inability to accept foreign matter such as, well, a robot organ. However, given the speed at which research labs are churning out biological and technological innovations, it’s hard to imagine a future where such technology will not one day be the norm.
Given these recent trends in healthcare robotics, it’s clear that robots will transform every element of the modern healthcare experience. Both healthcare professionals and their patients will experience the impact of new innovations in regards to management/operations and treatment. With the medical robot industry expected to be worth about 12.8 billion dollars by 2021, we’re headed towards this seemingly fantastical world faster than you think!