12 Advances In Medical Robotics
January 29, 2011 06:00 AM Robots play a critical -- and growing -- role in modern medicine, from training the next generation of doctors, dentists, and nurses, to comforting and protecting elderly patients in the early stages of dementia. Using robots, medical professionals can make smaller incisions for shorter surgeries, reducing hospital stays and improving patients' prognoses and saving costs. As robots become even smaller and developers continue to further integrate the devices with artificial intelligence, the medical community will continuously expand the ways in which it uses this technology to save patients, improve quality of life and prevent health problems. At the other end of the spectrum, medical schools are turning to robots that mimic live patients' feelings of pain or discomfort to help the next wave of doctors and dentists prepare to treat real people. Of course, dummies and cadavers are not new to medical students, but by giving students access to sensitive patients, healthcare educators hope to hone the bedside manners of soon-to-be doctors and dentists.
The aging population, coupled with advances in medicine that enable people to overcome once deadly conditions, have created a nursing shortage. To help combat this situation, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Michigan, and Carnegie Mellon University have been working on mobile robots -- such as Nursebot -- that are designed specifically to help elderly people cope with day-to-day activities. This allows them to live at home, reducing strains on infrastructure and costs of nursing homes and rehab centers. It also helps eliminate the pain, additional medical complications, and expenses associated with trips and falls, many of which happen at the home when elderly or infirm individuals try to do household tasks. Some robots are equipped with telepresence capabilities, allowing live nurses or doctors to monitor medical conditions.