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7/22/2014
07:06 AM
David Wagner
David Wagner
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10 More Robots That Could Change Healthcare

These medical robots bring fresh ideas to healthcare. Ready to see one at your local hospital?
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I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords. Still, as they infiltrate everything from our assembly lines to our living rooms, robots can be just a little disconcerting. Now they plan to conquer the hospital. The first time a robot crawls down your throat or carries you from your bed, you'll likely panic. But before you enlist to fight against the robot threat, remember their purpose -- robots go where we can't, either because of danger or physical limitations. So, before they end up taking over the planet and enslaving humans, they are going to do some amazing things to save our lives.

In fact, robots and medicine go so well together this isn't the first medical robot slideshow we've done. Back in 2012, we covered robots that could do anything from reminding you to take a pill to scraping plaque off your arteries. We showcased more medical robots last year. We just can't get enough.

And for good reason. The medical robot field is growing exponentially. The current $1.7 billion medical robot market is expected to rise to more than $3.7 billion by 2018. And this does not include robots in fire and rescue, military training, and robots designed to improve home life.

It is difficult to estimate just how many robots are wandering the halls of our local hospitals, because it depends on how you define robot. For instance, at least 800 hospitals use telepresence robots. These are rolling devices controlled by doctors and equipped with cameras and tools to allow for remote consultations. There are also "robot surgeons" like the da Vinci, which also require a human to operate them remotely. Both of these are innovative, but they aren't robots so much as remotely operated machines. We wouldn't call a remote control toy car a robot.

For the purpose of this slideshow, we're going to focus more on robots that aren't fancy remote controls for doctors. And when we do talk about remote vehicles, they will include novel approaches that are just too good to ignore. (Spoiler: Doctors use robot "maggots" to drill into your head and eat tumors.)

These amazing robots will do everything from clearing cancerous tumors to helping amputees learn to play music again. They perform more mundane tasks, as well, such as helping patients take medicine, and even throwing up. Why do we need a robot that throws up? You'll have to click through the slideshow to find out. But I promise you'll see a set of really exciting ideas.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

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Henrisha
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Henrisha,
User Rank: Strategist
7/22/2014 | 1:39:00 PM
Re: Where's the paperwork robot?
I suppose they must have come up with measurable metrics to assess the pain level. From what I've heard, it is still relatively new so it might take some time before it will be reliable enough to expand its reach of applications.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/22/2014 | 1:38:43 PM
Re: nifty, but not likely
@cafzali- A very fair point on whether you'll see robots in a hospital near you any time soon. It is true that urban research hospitals tend to get all the fun first.

Still, I think there is a place for robots and telemdeicine in more rural areas. For isntance, the RIBA seems more likely to be useful in place where the population is small and there are fewer people in the workforce to help with care.
soozyg
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soozyg,
User Rank: Ninja
7/22/2014 | 1:37:21 PM
Re: Kernerworks
That is really cool. Well, in the best world--or at least an improved world--the robots would just be reassemble-able. Or they would come with replaceable body parts.

For favorite it was a tough choice between the trauma robot and the robot maggots. I know they eat tumors and I think that is totally cool. Robot maggots would be really cool to see.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/22/2014 | 1:36:39 PM
Re: Where's the paperwork robot?
@DavidCarr- My understanding is that right now, we measure pain through secondary reactions (called galvanic skin reactions). We can measure stress through these reactions. If you isolate and/or create baselines for other forms of stress, you can see pain as one of the things that cause this reaction.

And in 2013, neuroscientists from Johns Hopkins (my alma mater, shameless plug) and University of Michigan used Functional MRI to measure pain on an objective scale. http://io9.com/scientists-succeed-in-objectively-measuring-pain-472456061

Functional MRI right now requires a very large device so it wouldn't be practical in a machine like this yet. But galvanic skin reactions, combined with a patient's resistance to the exoskeleton, audio cues, etc could go a long way.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/22/2014 | 1:26:35 PM
Re: Kernerworks
@soozyg- Yes, that was amazing. the hardest part for me was recognizing how many people need training on multiple amputation traumas. I would rather like to ignore that part of life when I can. Thankfully, there are people (and now robot engineers) that have more guts than me.

the best thing about this is that in the long run it should be programmable for more types of trauma so the training will get even better. I think the hard part for these training robots right now is how do you "transform" easily from a robot with no legs to one with legs but a sucking chest wound. things like that.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
7/22/2014 | 1:20:02 PM
Re: Where's the paperwork robot?
@SaraPeters, I missed the detail about pain sensors in the therapy robot - does that tech already exist? I wonder how reliable it is, what the advantage is over self-reported pain indicators.Is that really something that can be measured objectively?
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/22/2014 | 1:19:42 PM
Re: Where's the paperwork robot?
@Sara- Yes, i think the therapy robot is amazing. Having just gone through therapy for a knee injury, I can tell you that the gentle and experienced hands of a therapist were amazing. But there aren't enough of them. And I had toruble getting appointments.

If we could replicate some of that experience, it could do wonders. Especially if we could combine the human touch with the robots ability to work tirelessly.
cafzali
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cafzali,
User Rank: Moderator
7/22/2014 | 1:19:25 PM
nifty, but not likely
Health care has always been one of those areas where what you experience depends vastly on where you live. If you're in a major metro area and have access to a top-tier facility, you'll see these trends come to you much sooner than if you're in a rural area, or even a small city, with no access to top-flight medical care. 

Hospitals in major metro areas can afford this technology, in large part because they receive grants, have endowments, etc. In contrast, smaller hospitals do well to stay open because they have to take everyone who comes in the door, serve a greater percentage of people who lack access to preventative health care, etc. 

I'm all for technology, but the first thing that needs to change in health care is the business model. The current financing method works for nobody and is bankrupting the economy. 
soozyg
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soozyg,
User Rank: Ninja
7/22/2014 | 1:18:32 PM
Kernerworks
My favorite is the Kernerworks training bot. All the things it can simulate? With that training, medics would make fewer mistakes in the field and save more lives. That is excellent.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/22/2014 | 1:16:40 PM
Re: Obligatory Def Leppard reference
@Sara- I wondered that, too. I believe he uses a combination of other technologies to do similar things. I believe he uses electronic drums that sometimes repeat and capture his rhythms so he can play other parts. I think i remember him saying that he can set it up to do more than he could have before his accident. But obviously, he has to program it.

the difference is the improvisaitonal aspect of the 3rd stick. I'd love to hear what he could do with it. I bet he'd love to try it out.
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