Healthcare // Analytics
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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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Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
7/29/2014 | 11:06:06 PM
Re: Interaction
@David, there have been plenty of robots in the entertainment field. Just see The Terminator. Or The Matrix. Not sure any of those robots could sing, but they sure could act ... very badly. Don't trust them!
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/28/2014 | 12:32:55 PM
Re: Interaction
@nemos- Fair enough. In fact, there is a robot I was researching for another story that sings. And the reason the inventor created a singing robot is that he felt that real robots needed to be seen in entertainment so we can trust them elsewhere in our lives. If we get used to robots on TV, in our retail stores, etc, he believe we'll accept them in places like healthcare and at work.

So I suggest you buy a ticket to the next robot rock concert you hear about. :)
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/28/2014 | 12:27:37 PM
Re: Racing to the Bottom
>>excerpt<<

"all should lower costs by freeing up human resources to do more important jobs."

 

>>/excerpt<<

Translation:  Lay off en masse all highly paid medical personnel so the hospital CEO can add another $5M to his salary/bennies package.

 

@asksqn- Well, that's always a danger. But before we get to that point there are real savings to make. Right now someone with multiple degrees and years of specialized training are required to take time from those jobs to help do things like change sheets while keeping a patient safe. These duties require knowledge, sensitivity, and training, but not nearly as much as many of their other duties. Chronic care management is another example.

So yes, I don't deny that this is a common problem we've seen in retail and in companies investing in the cloud. but just like there are a few smart companies investing cloud savings in innovation, it is possib;e a good hospital will do the same thing.  We can't blame the robots for the system.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
7/28/2014 | 9:28:47 AM
Re: Creepy but cool
For me, less invasive and more complete wins out over the fear of robots inside of me.  I've heard stories of leaches and maggots used to clean wounds, I'm not seeing how a robot maggot would be any worse, at least it can be programmed and monitored.
Nemos
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Nemos,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/26/2014 | 5:04:31 PM
Interaction
I would like to see first how could be the interaction between human and robot in other areas than hospitals. The trust between patient and doctor is vital and I believe is premature to see robots in the healthcare system.
asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
7/26/2014 | 4:27:39 PM
Racing to the Bottom
>>excerpt<<

"all should lower costs by freeing up human resources to do more important jobs."

 

>>/excerpt<<

Translation:  Lay off en masse all highly paid medical personnel so the hospital CEO can add another $5M to his salary/bennies package.

 

 

 
WaqasAltaf
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WaqasAltaf,
User Rank: Ninja
7/26/2014 | 7:27:15 AM
Re: robots to change healthcare
David

"all should lower costs by freeing up human resources to do more important jobs."

I hope that brings improvement in patients' welfare. In the long run, I see these costs going down significantly if these processes are automated.
WaqasAltaf
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WaqasAltaf,
User Rank: Ninja
7/26/2014 | 7:23:46 AM
Re: Creepy but cool
Kristine, no doubt about their precision but not all surgeries go as per plan. Sometimes the bleeding goes to an unexpected level or patients' body reacts in a completely unexpected way. Will robots be able to tacke that ? I think this and other issues do indicate their limitations.
WaqasAltaf
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WaqasAltaf,
User Rank: Ninja
7/26/2014 | 7:20:10 AM
Realizing the patients' response
David, interesting slideshow and article. It is good to see that the manufacturers realize that one of the biggest hurdle in robots' success is if patients' don't get scared off with their presence. The Riba example relating to elderly care indicates that realization.
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
7/25/2014 | 2:08:35 PM
Re: Creepy but cool
@SaneIT: I hope all that comes to pass soon. As someone who follows the stock market, I have been aware of Intuitive Surgical's robotic products for years now. They have the DaVinci Robot which has been quite successful. While the robots might be able to perform the surgery, you still have to have a procedure that is as minimally invasive as possible and (most importantly), hits the tumour only and not the surrounding tissue. And of course does not cause damage to the tumour to release its toxins to the rest of the body. A tall order.
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