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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 F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
7/22/2014 | 9:33:10 AM
Where's the paperwork robot?
The doctors I know would be happy with a robot that deals with insurance companies and the government. Instead, you give us barfing robots?
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/22/2014 | 12:10:51 PM
Re: Where's the paperwork robot?
Well, I don't think it takes a robot (perhaps a computer, more likely an assistant) to deal with insurance companies. The point of the barfing robot is to track the way norovirus spreads. Which literally saves lives.

All an insurance robot saves doctors is a headache. 

 
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/22/2014 | 12:52:21 PM
Re: Where's the paperwork robot?
@David F. Carr: Does that paperwork robot actually exist? If so, please tell us more about it.
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/22/2014 | 1:08:22 PM
Re: Where's the paperwork robot?
interesting, same question here, would love to know more... thanks... sometime it seems technology changing overnight...
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Moderator
7/22/2014 | 1:08:25 PM
Re: Where's the paperwork robot?
I do not feel too comfortable with this idea as of yet. However, maybe it will really be a good thing in the future. Maybe it's possible that robots can do more than humans. Since the humans will be remotely controlling the robots, I think the doctors need a lot more training in this area before they fully roll out having the robots perform procedures on us.
Sara Peters
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Sara Peters,
User Rank: Ninja
7/22/2014 | 1:09:51 PM
Obligatory Def Leppard reference
Well that Meka Robotics arm for the one-armed drummer is pretty cool, but I wonder how Rick Allen of Def Leppard would feel about it?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UIB9Y4OFPs
Sara Peters
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Sara Peters,
User Rank: Ninja
7/22/2014 | 1:14:04 PM
Re: Where's the paperwork robot?
@DavidCarr @DavidWagner   I actually think the barfing robot could be really useful, but I'm more interested in the therapy robots with the sensors that might be able to measure a patient's pain level. Palliative care is one of the things that medical professionals struggle most with, because it's so hard to determine who's silently toughing it out and who's complaining about excruciating pain just to persuade the doctors to give them more morphine.
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.
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.
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. 
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