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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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David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/22/2014 | 5:13:59 PM
Re: Kernerworks
@vnewman- Wow, that is a great description. I knew some of out ideas of drowing were wrong, but that really put it into ghastly perspective.

I've seen our local water park do drills where they put dummies floating in the water or hide them in nooks and crannies on rides to see if the lifeguards spot them. Is that good training? Have you seen that?

And could we up that a notch or two by doing that with a robot that could position itself or move like a drowning person?
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
7/22/2014 | 5:13:33 PM
Re: The Da Vinci Dilemma
True. And you can be a bad surgeon with or without a robot. Or a great one.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
7/22/2014 | 5:12:31 PM
Re: nifty, but not likely
Hmmm, i doubt it, although I suppose that's a risk. Seems to me there are clearcut cases where telemedicine works and there are clearcut places where it doesn't (where blood's involved!). As someone else mentioned here, there are also politics, jobs, and other reasons why hospitals won't go away; telemed complements existing care but i don't foresee it ever supplanting in-office (or OR) visits when face-to-face care is necessary. Although sci-fi writers would disagree, i'm sure!
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/22/2014 | 5:10:49 PM
Re: nifty, but not likely
@cafzali- i was at a presentaiton at HIMSS about the very topic of insurance and telemedicine. And for what it was worth, they did an informal show of hands in the room. They asked doctors if they would do a telemedicine consult even if they new that they wouldn't get paid by the insurance. Nearly all of them raised their hands saying they would. When they asked if they would do 2 per day (10 per week) without getitng paid, most raised their hands. Above that number, the hands started going down. 

So at the very least the technology is considered useful enough that doctors aren't going to worry about it here or there. It is if insurance simply never adapts that they will get cranky.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/22/2014 | 5:07:58 PM
Re: Kernerworks
Breathe like this

Ha! I suspect that the OB was just annoyed by the way you were breathing. I think the number one goal of the breath is to give you something else to think about. :)

No, I'm not breathing expert, but I'm amused. 

David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/22/2014 | 5:05:52 PM
Re: The Da Vinci Dilemma
@Alison- I wonder about that, too. I suspect it will probably focus the efforts a bit which isn't a bad thing. One of the things about robots in surgery is that they are just plain cool. But they aren't necessarily fot for every surgery. I think the lawsuits are making people do a better job at figuring out the right place for them. They aren't going to go away, no more than malpractice suits keep people from being doctors.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/22/2014 | 5:03:03 PM
Re: nifty, but not likely
@Alison- I think that's great. The one thing i worry about with telemedicine is that despite best intentions it will create two classes of medicine-- the people who can afford to be seen in perosn and the people who only get robots.

i know the argument for telepresence is that it means a world class specialist can see someon anywhere in the world. But they are still only seeing the robot. I worry that we will inadvertantly create a kind of ghetto robot medicine.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/22/2014 | 5:00:33 PM
Re: Kernerworks
@sferguson10001- It depends on your definition of "robot." The robot numbers include telepresence and robotic surgery devices. Telepresence is where the most money is being spent. Finding a way to expand the time on task for staff is the number one goal. The more you can keep them from travelling or doing mundane tasks they are overqualified for the more ROI you get. 

Right now that means mostly telepresence, but it will soon mean dedicated devices like RIBA. Though as great as RIBA is, we have to wonder whether some sort of altered bed with a gentle lifting mechanism makes more sense than a robot. But you get what I mean.

the other big area I think we're going to see expand is training like the trauma robot and the haptic device that teaches breast manipulation. That can be easily dismissed as a novelty, but hands on time for students is a big deal. And it is demeaning to ask a woman to submit to an entire class of students touching her to get experience.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
7/22/2014 | 4:38:27 PM
New Frontier or Twilight Zone?
Hey Dave,

Very informative article,

I will say that I've always tought that the effort involve in human care is something that robots couldn't replace, but the break down you've provided actually does help, I mean when we thinkg about it, a robot that helps patient calm down won't be fatigued, tired or in a bad mood, so in that aspect it does add value. I would appreciate it if it was tasked to take care of my kids.

Others I definitly see the educational values...others are simply too creepy (bugs in my brain? Really?)

But, I think that with more researh and development, we'll definitly get there. Movies like Elysium provide a preview of what will it looks like when medical attention is put in the hands of robots.
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
7/22/2014 | 4:02:13 PM
That therapy robot is cool...
And since I'm in physical therapy a couple of times a month for my laundry list of sports injuries, I consider myself a connoisseur of physical therapy techniques.  And like most things I'm sure it won't be covered under my health insurance... 
<<   <   Page 7 / 11   >   >>
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