Robots and Healthcare Saving Lives Together

June 6, 2017
Author: Tanya M. Anandan

Physicians, nurses and technicians are the superheroes of healthcare. But even Captain Marvel needs a trusted sidekick. Enter the robots. They augment the surgeon’s potential with superhuman precision and repeatability. They help hospitals save costs, reduce waste, and improve patient care. They offer levels of measurability and traceability that only automated machines can achieve. And they provide medical technology developers with proven platforms for new innovations.

From radiation treatment to eye surgery, rehabilitation to hair transplantation, and robot therapists to robotic pharmacists, and even a robot phlebotomist, healthcare robots are transforming the fields of medicine across the globe.

Probably the most widely known medical robot is the da Vinci® Surgical System made by Intuitive Surgical. The teleoperated robot-assisted surgical system has been used successfully on millions of patients since it was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000. Indications for use include minimally invasive thoracoscopic, cardiac, urological, and gynecologic procedures.

For the squeamish, we stuck to fruit for this demo. Check out this video of a surgeon using the da Vinci robot to peel a grape.

Many believe healthcare robotics is reaching a tipping point. Robots are becoming cheaper and more capable. The sensors and software that heighten their capability continue to drop in price. And as a new age dawns for robots designed to work collaboratively with humans, medical applications will only gain momentum. Reports are projecting tremendous growth for healthcare robotics in the next five years.

“We are at the infancy of the automation spectrum for medical robotics,” says Corey Ryan, Manager of Medical Robotics for KUKA Robotics Corporation in Shelby Township, Michigan. “I say that because the da Vinci has most of the market for surgical robotics, but it is a telemanipulator. The surgeon operates a joystick to perform the procedure. The system doesn’t do the work itself. It’s simply a remote tool the doctor can use.”

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