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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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tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
7/25/2014 | 1:59:34 PM
Re: Creepy but cool
I can speak from experience with regard to tumour therapy (unfortunately). I was lucky enough to only need radiation which was focussed on the tumour. But even the best procedures still leave room for error. And like you mentioned the surgical methods can cause problems with missing the mark, causing collateral damage or opening up the tumour to release toxins which spread to other parts of the body. It is my sincere hope that any of the competing therapies will prove fruitful to spare future patients these issues.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
7/25/2014 | 9:44:48 AM
Re: Creepy but cool
I can see people taking that two ways: 1) The less-invasive, the better, when it comes to surgery and 2) "I don't trust  robots when it comes to surgery." I'm split -- while I know in most cases, robots are more precise than humans, there's also something unsettling about a robot performing surgery on me. I wonder what others think?
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
7/25/2014 | 7:37:26 AM
Re: Creepy but cool
@tjgkg, I think they are using drugs like that now or very similar techniques that reduce a tumor's ability to feed itself.  We are in a very exciting time as far as robotics go though.  Many of the things that were fantasy when I was a kid are very close to reality when you consider some of the more utilitarian robot solutions like self driving cars, aerial drones and surgical robots.  There is even a tattooing robot out there.  We're getting very close to getting the bigger bots right and that means the smaller ones will come along quickly as technology keeps driving on.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
7/25/2014 | 7:32:57 AM
Re: Creepy but cool
@PedroGonzales, it does amaze me where we will put our money, but I guess hair on top of the head is one of the more visible conditions out there that a lot of people experience.  It seems to be one of those things that we can kind of help but can't totally fix, like the common cold.  I'm sure if a robot came along that could farm hair and implant it the money for funding would appear rather quickly.
Jeff Jerome
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Jeff Jerome,
User Rank: Ninja
7/24/2014 | 11:28:43 PM
Re: robots to change healthcare
David It is an interesting contrast the cost of a product vs the cost of insurance for risk and exposure.  Plus in an economy of scale the devices can get less expensive and provide a subject mater expert whose skills can be updated with a .rev and reboot.  But who wants to be the first test subject after the upgrade.  What did the robot say?  "Absolutely nothing will go wrong, will go wrong will go wrong .... ."
Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
7/24/2014 | 11:09:37 PM
Re: nifty, but not likely
@David, that is a horrible story. I would fully support you if you wanted to start naming names. There's been a big push toward "consumer-directed" healthcare, and if that ever actually happens, jerky docs like this will eventually have their reps, and their busineses, dented,
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
7/24/2014 | 5:54:23 PM
Having b grade horror movie flashbacks
Most of these creeped me out, but the really scary thing is that I know when my kids are grown they will probably think this is how it was always done. B grade horror movie flashbackes aside, there are some really great ideas in here. At first I scoffed at the little social robot, but then remembered what a small little room my grandmother calls home in her retirement home, and how comforting it might be to be able to have a story or something if she wanted extra company. Which one is your favorite?
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
7/24/2014 | 3:36:40 PM
Re: New Frontier or Twilight Zone?
@David,

 

In that case, bring on the chocolate covered laser bugs :)
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/24/2014 | 12:40:05 PM
Re: robots to change healthcare
@tekedge- Definitely some of these really expensive machines solving specific problems will raise the cost of healthcar.e. But several of these are intended to do the opposite. the blood drawing robot, the elder care robot, the training robots, all should lower costs by freeing up human resources to do more important jobs.

Of course, that's what people say about the cloud as well, and we all know that there is a mix of success on that front depending on how well it is deployed. So hospitals have to be smart about what they deploy and when.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/24/2014 | 12:36:21 PM
Re: Creepy but cool
For years I have been reading about ways to kill tumours without surgery but nothing has been realized yet. A maggot sized bot sounds interesting but so did all the other theories I have heard. I remember one where they were going to make some injectable drug that will kill the blood sources to the tumours causing them to shrink and die-all without surgery. Gene therapy, interferon etc.


You are definitely right. I think that's OK, because it means we have several competing theories. When you have multiple theories, you have a etter bchance of one going well.

Personally, I like these mechanical methods as a stop gap to a more elaboate chemical means which will take longer to develop. My understanding is surgical methods often miss parts of the tumor so they aren't always perfect. but they are faster to develop than the medical counterparts.
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