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Robots are slowly being introduced into the medical world, but is this necessarily a good thing? Keep reading for a closer look at how the future of healthcare could be shaped by advancements in technology…
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The concept of robots being integrated into society has always had an air of sci-fi about it. You may be surprised to learn then, that the previously outlandish prospect is slowly becoming a reality…
More and more robots are being used to support a variety of sectors, including the medical world. In fact, the global medical robotics market is expected to be valued at 20 billion dollars by 2023, which means there’s a drive for robots to be used in all manner of ways. There may even be an instance where a delay in treatment for your condition could be avoided altogether with the assistance of a robot.
Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at how robots are already being used in the medical world, and discuss what the implications could be if the industry continues to grow. So, if you want to learn more about how robots are entering the medical world, read on…
How Are Robots Already Being Used in the Medical World?
As you’ll be aware, the doctors who do such a fantastic job looking after us are still exactly that – doctors. Last time I checked; they haven’t been replaced by robots!
However, that doesn’t mean they’re on their own. There are already plenty of incredible innovations being used in hospitals around the world that make their jobs that little bit easier.
One of the most common robots already being used in the medical world is the da Vinci Surgical System. This is used to give surgeons more control when carrying out procedures, reducing the risk of human error. It works by making tiny, exact incisions, helping to make surgery less invasive.
What’s more, robots aren’t just used for physical treatments, but are designed to provide therapeutic treatments too! These are becoming more commonplace in the medical world, helping treat depression or other mental illnesses. The PARO Therapeutic Robot is a device designed to look like a baby seal, which provides the benefits of animal therapy to ease patient stress.
What Are the Plans for the Future of Robots Entering the Medical World?
As far as the future of robots in the medical world is concerned, we are barely scratching the surface. In fact, there are plenty of innovations and developments still to come, focusing on A.I, driven procedures.
On a global scale, Google are one of the big names weighing in on the future of robotics. They’re currently working with Johnson and Johnson to develop A.I. surgical robots to provide further assistance to surgeons during invasive operations, using advanced imaging and sensors.
It’s not just patients who could see the benefits, either. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions about the prospect of using technology to aid in social distancing, reducing the rate of healthcare infections for both patients and personnel.
Pros and Cons of Using Robots in the Medical World
So, robots already have a place in the medical world and could be set to feature more prominently in the future. But, what exactly does that mean for the future of the healthcare sector?
More robots don’t necessarily mean a good thing. In fact, there are a number of pros and cons, which are important to keep in mind.
Pros of Using Robots in the Medical World
1. Robots Can Improve Diagnosis
One of the most important benefits to using robots in healthcare is the fact the improved technology can improve medical diagnosis. Inaccurate or delayed diagnosis can lead to severe consequences, so reducing the risk of this occurring is vital for healthcare professionals.
A trial in China found that an A.I. system using ‘deep’ learning and neural networks is already able to diagnose patients as accurately as human doctors. In fact, the technology was more than 90 percent accurate at detecting certain symptoms, such as asthma, while human doctors were between 80 to 94 percent accurate.
That’s not all either. IBW Watson ran a study where A.I. was able to match the treatment plans made by oncologists for 99 percent of cancer patients it studied. Just imagine how accurate a robot could be in a few more years! Of course, we aren’t quite there yet, but the signs are looking positive.
2. Reduced Risk of Human Error
Unfortunately, mistakes happen and, in the healthcare industry, these mistakes can have grave consequences. Robots can greatly reduce (or even remove) the potential for mistakes to happen, making procedures safer and less costly for patients. Simply put, robots could become the perfect surgeons.
3. Increased Efficiency
In England alone, research found that the NHS could undertake up to 280,000 more non-emergency operating procedures every year if more efficient operating theatre schedules existed. Robots could help to speed up procedures, reduce trauma, and minimise costs. That can only be a good thing.
4. Support Patient and Personnel Care
The alarming lack of PPE to help combat the COVID-19 outbreak meant that thousands of nurses and doctors fell ill as hospitals struggled to care for the ever-increasing number of patients coming through the doors. So, why not invest in robots for the future?
The interest in using robots to maintain infection control massively increased during the pandemic and, really, it’s no wonder. If we can protect patients and staff without compromising the standard of healthcare. Then there is no reason not to invest in medical robots.
5. Alternative Job Opportunities
An increased use of robots in the medical world could provide a much-needed boost to certain technology sectors. These would otherwise struggle in the economic climate left behind in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, more engineers, technicians and skilled workers will be required if we are to see an effective integration of robots in the medical world.
Cons of Using Robots in the Medical World
1. Reduced Job Opportunities on the Frontline
While there will be alternative job opportunities opening up in other sectors, what will happen to frontline workers? Right now, robots are being used alongside, rather than in place, of humans. But, what’s to say this doesn’t change in the future?
If robots are indeed more accurate and more efficient than their human counterparts. There may be a reduced need for human nurses or doctors, threatening jobs across the world.
And that brings even further issues…
2. Ethical Considerations
If robots are increasingly being used in the medical world, there might be a risk that we are removing the ‘human’ element of the care process altogether. We all have social and emotional needs, and a robot isn’t necessarily going to be able to provide us with those. Right?
Whether or not robots can have empathy is an entirely different discussion. That said, a human touch may just be irreplaceable, especially when it comes to maintaining safety standards.
3. Privacy and Data Protection
Robotic research and the use of robotics in healthcare raises questions about privacy and data. Patients will want to know how their data is being collected, who will have access to it, who owns it, and so on. The more robots are used, the higher the risk of that data being compromised or falling into the wrong hands.
4. Robots are Costly
The most obvious drawback to using robots in the medical world is that, however you want to look at it, they are expensive. Very expensive.
And, as is always the way with technology, nothing stays still for very long. Integrating technology on a massive scale will require constant development, updates and improvements. Just think about how often we have to replace our phones. There will have to be a huge increase in the budget available to healthcare providers, and that isn’t always possible.
How Do You Feel About Robots Entering the Medical World?
So, there we have it! Hopefully, this article has given you a better insight into the ways robots are already being used in the medical world, and what could still be in store. It’s a topic that is bound to crop up again and again over the coming years. So make sure to keep your eyes peeled for any further developments.
What are your thoughts about robots being used in the medical world? Feel free to leave a comment below so we keep the discussion going!