The use of robotics in surgery is well documented, with new procedures being developed to improve operating theatre efficiency and reliability. There are, though, many other areas in healthcare where robots are performing important roles. Here we look at some of the new robot applications in healthcare:
Whilst more traditional ‘picking’ functions have been utilised in pharmacies, such the Guy’s Hospital robot featured here, there is increasing demand for more flexible machines. ABB’s collaborative robots will be working alongside human lab staff to transform the medical laboratory processes, reducing bottlenecks in the work, enhancing safety and delivering a highly consistent output.
With the NHS experiencing serious nursing staff shortages, anything to make the life of the ward nurse easier requires careful consideration. Diligent Robotics’ Moxi robot is designed to undertake the 30% of tasks that nurses do which are not involving interactions with patients. These are tasks such as running errands around the wards and departments, or dropping off specimens for analysis at labs.
One of the interesting by-products of this initiative is the positive reaction of patients, to the extent that some ask for selfies with the robot. The programmers have begun to build in ‘social interaction’ time where the robot moves through wards, flashing heart eyes at patients.
The use of artificial intelligence technology will be pushing against many boundaries, in areas which to date have been exclusively the preserve of skilled staff. An example here is the mental health triage bot, which can detect suicidal ideation from the tones of a conversation. There are also exciting opportunities for the use of virtual reality technology in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders and phobias.
“The development of robots in the healthcare sector is really exciting”, says Liz Reid, MD of RNR Robot Solutions. “With constant pressure on NHS budgets, we are seeing the potential for robots to have a very positive impact on productivity across the hard pressed healthcare sector”.