Robots in Healthcare: How Robots are Helping Patients in the Field of Healthcare

A man doing physical therapy by using an exoskeleton to walk on a treadmill

If you are interested in a career in the healthcare industry and have researched a bit about its future, you must have come across the use of robots in healthcare. These robots offer many possibilities that are beneficial to you as a healthcare worker as well as your patients. Robots can improve patient outcomes, while providing much needed help, but never replacing, healthcare professionals who constantly strive to optimize patient care. With this in mind, let’s take a look at how robots are helping to improve patient outcomes in the healthcare industry.

Robots in Action: From High Precision Surgery to Delivery of Medical Supplies

Healthcare robots are currently used primarily in surgical procedures and prosthetics. Robots are also used in other areas of healthcare, such as dispensing medication, disinfecting rooms, and delivering medical supplies, for example.

How Robots are Being Used in Healthcare

There are several different types of robots currently in use in the healthcare industry. If you are a patient, you might have encountered some of these robots in doctors offices or hospitals. The types of robots include:

  1. Surgical-assistance robots. These robots are used in high precision surgeries and minimally-invasive surgeries, such as chemical ablation and radiofrequency ablation. One example of a surgical-assistance robot can be found in the da Vinci Surgical System.
  2. Mobile robots are used in transporting patients, moving heavy loads, cleaning, and disinfection of rooms. A good example a mobile robot is the TUG autonomous mobile delivery robot, which is used to carry heavy machinery.
  3. Service robots track medical supplies, quickly set up rooms, and perform other general logistical tasks related to healthcare.
  4. Social robots are robotic care assistants. Physicians can use these robots to interact directly with patients if necessary due to time constraints. These robots can also reduce time-consuming and expensive home visits.
  5. Exoskeletons help with surgical procedures and assist in recovery. An example is the Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) exoskeleton that helps victims of stroke learn to walk again, and helps patients during the process of rehabilitation.

The Robot-Healthcare Worker Symbiosis

The important thing to remember is that, while there are fears that robots in healthcare might replace human staff, robots will never replace humans, and never replace doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. Robots are only designed to help, not to replace, workers in healthcare. Also, from a financial standpoint, robots are currently expensive pieces of machinery, so it would not be cost-effective to replace all human workers in a health facility with robots. They also need to be programmed by humans, set up by humans, and monitored by humans, especially in relation to the test results that they produce and how they function in the clinical setting. If and when robots fail, the practical skills, creativity, and human decision-making skills must take over, in the form of the healthcare professional. Most importantly, patients will always require the human touch, when engaging with healthcare professionals, as well as a caring and sympathetic human, with a compassionate listening ear when describing medical issues and addressing medical concerns.

Robots in Healthcare and the Demand for Human Input

The programming, maintenance, monitoring of performance, and repair of robots in healthcare settings provides additional job opportunities for medical technicians. Medical technicians must program the robots, and ensure that they are performing correctly. As a result, healthcare workers will always be in demand to provide both the medical school knowledge and the hands-on medical experience needed to accurately monitor and interpret the behavior of robots, in addition to completing the tasks that are required of human beings in the healthcare environment. This creates new job opportunities for individuals who are in the medical field, and those who are training for future positions in the medical field.

How Healthcare Robots Help You and Your Patients

The use of robots in healthcare settings can enhance your career experience if you work in the medical field, and as stated previously, improve patient outcomes. The need for food and sleep does not hinder machines, unlike humans, and fatigue is not a factor when perform monotonous tasks for long periods of time.

In addition to these benefits, healthcare robots can perform tasks that may be potentially dangerous for human healthcare workers, such as testing solutions that might be harmful, and reducing exposure to highly contagious pathogens when used in a laboratory setting. This frees up time for healthcare workers to perform other tasks that need human interaction, such as spending more time caring for patients, and taking additional time to answer patient questions, time that may not be available without the extra assistance of the robot. This may be especially beneficial for elderly patients, or patients with hearing or speech impediments, that may require extra time to speak about medical issues during an office visit, fore example.

Patient Attitudes Toward Healthcare Robots

Unlike robots in manufacturing, healthcare robots are relatively new, and learning about how patients feel about robots being using in healthcare is also still relatively new. SomeĀ research suggests that most patients have a positive attitude towards robots, though it takes time to warm up to them.

With this in mind, what are your thoughts about robots being used in healthcare?

If you are a patient, how do you feel about a robot providing assistance to you at your next doctor’s office or hospital visit?

If you are a healthcare professional, do you think having a robot could help you in your work? Why or why not?

Leave a reply to these questions in the field below.

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