Surgical robots have been used since the early 2000s, enabling surgeons to perform delicate work with greater precision, flexibility and improved reach. Today, medical robots are quickly moving into other areas of healthcare to achieve better patient healthcare outcomes, improve efficiency and lower cost.
Because robots are ideal for repetitive tasks, their use in healthcare settings can free up nursing and medical staff to deal with situations requiring skilled care, human judgment and empathy. In addition to providing much needed support and relief to overwhelmed staff, robots are dependable, can work long hours, and never call in sick.
Some of the new applications for medical robots include:
- Patient care – In hospitals, nursing homes and clinics, robots aid nursing staff by dispensing medicine, taking vital signs and drawing blood, and monitoring patients.
- Therapy – Robots are being used in physical and rehabilitation therapy to help patients strengthen muscles and recover use of their limbs. Newer robotic applications in social and cognitive therapies help stroke, autistic and dementia patients. Social therapy robots can provide comfort and consolation to patients who have suffered trauma or abuse.
- Exoskeletons – What previously seemed like science fiction is now reality: Exoskeletons are enabling paralyzed patients to walk and assist in the rehabilitation of stroke and spinal cord injury patients. New 3D printing techniques are helping to custom-fit exoskeletons precisely to patient body forms.
- Supply chain – Robots assist with ordering, delivery and the control of supplies in healthcare settings and can optimize the connection between suppliers and healthcare facilities.
- Disinfection – Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are a leading cause of death in the United States. Disinfection robots that use high intensity ultraviolet light to quickly and efficiently clean spaces are being deployed in healthcare facilities to combat this problem.
- Nanobots – Microscopic robots can be injected or ingested into a patient to perform surgical procedures, identify and attack cancer cells, and safely remove foreign objects such as swallowed toys. Other nano-robotic applications include miniscule 3D printing functions for the creation of thin films and tiny batteries for microscopic medical devices.
- Pharmacy – In the near future, pharmabots could analyze patient medical data and dispense precise dosages much like an ATM disburses cash. This approach would free up pharmacists for patient education and consultation.
See also “10 Nanotech Breakthroughs You Should Know About,” by Kristopher Sturgis and Qmed staff, Qmed blog (updated), June 21, 2016. Available at: http://www.qmed.com/mpmn/article/10-nanotech-breakthroughs-you-should-know-about-updated.
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