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10 Medical Robots That Could Change Healthcare

From microbots that scrape plaque from arteries to personal assistant robots that help care for patients, medical robots are transforming the face of healthcare.
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Robots aren't new to healthcare. Remember the da Vinci Surgical System, the surgical assistant the FDA approved back in 2000? Since then, the system has conducted more than 20,000 surgeries and has paved the way for robotic advancements in healthcare. In fact, vendors have introduced a number of new robots to better provide care to remote patients, help with various physical therapies and -- similar to the da Vinci system -- help perform surgery.

For example, Magnetic Microbots are a group of tiny robots used in various operations, such as removing plaque from a patient's arteries or helping with ocular conditions and disease screenings. Other robotic advancements are used to better the day-to-day lives of patients, helping them eat, like the Bestic Arm, or helping a patient regain her ability to walk, like many of Toyota's Healthcare Assistants.

"In the next few years, thousands of 'service robots' are expected to enter the healthcare sector -- picture R2-D2 from Star Wars carrying a tray of medications or a load of laundry down hospital corridors," according to a recent article from The Wall Street Journal. "Fewer than 1,000 of these blue-collar robots currently roam about hospitals, but those numbers are expected to grow quickly."

And that's no surprise considering the mounting financial difficulties the industry faces. Robots like the Aethon TUG can complete the work of three full-time employees, yet it "costs less than one full-time employee," according to the company. The TUG acts as a distribution system to move through hospital corridors, elevators and departments to make either scheduled or on-demand deliveries. Swisslog's RoboCourier, a similar delivery system, helps eliminate human work and completes tasks with the push of a button.

"This new robotic breed is boasting features increasingly found in smartphones, gaming consoles and other consumer electronics, from advanced sensors and motion detectors to powerful microprocessors and voice activation. The service robots are self-aware, intelligent and able to navigate changing environments, even chaotic hospital settings," according to the WSJ.

Outside the hospital setting, caregivers use robots to enhance telemedicine and care for those restricted to their homes. The Vasteras Giraff, for instance, is a two-way call system similar to Skype and is used by doctors to communicate with the elderly. A PC, camera and monitor control the robot.

Click through to see 10 medical robots that have the potential to transform healthcare.

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aubreyjd
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aubreyjd,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/20/2013 | 12:51:57 AM
The Possibilities
            As an engineer I would say that I have a slightly different view on what art is. Though previously a major in the arts I decided to diverge more into applied aesthetics. When mentioning to others that I want to go into manufacturing engineering it is often imagined as a rusty factory, grumpy faces, with weird smells and toxins flowing through the airways. But me, I see it as a system with so many pathways that can be taken. Last year, while visiting one of these factories on a tour, I quickly fell in love, as weird as that sounds, with a robot. The ways in which it moves, and the ways in which it was able to help were just something so beautiful to me, and it was then that I realized the beauty in robotics.

            While doing much research in robotics I found so many articles on how they have been used in the medical field (where I hope to end up someday). Robots that help deliver materials, make materials, and compute data, and even things like this that are able to possibly even lift a patient's spirits; it even touches the Wall-E lover inside of me and through things like Wall-E I find my inspiration to use engineering, but also this art to hopefully make the world a better place some day. Things like this show me the endless possibilities of where robotics can fit and help, and if engineered properly I think it's a really viable opportunity that we should embrace.
jaysimmons
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jaysimmons,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/13/2012 | 7:44:21 PM
re: 10 Medical Robots That Could Change Healthcare
IGm a little skeptical, as others are IGm sure, of replacing human interaction with medical robots. One of the main complaints I hear about EHRs is the aspect of losing interaction with patients due to having to document in the system during the visit. I am however looking forward to microbots becoming more prevalent in the field, and the data we will be able to gather from them.

Jay Simmons Information
Week Contributor
chergui77
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chergui77,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2012 | 4:22:22 AM
re: 10 Medical Robots That Could Change Healthcare
As a registered nurse practioner, I would like to see evidence based practice and research that supports robotics vs. human contact. Studies show that infants need human contact to bond and survive. Will robots just get the job done or will there be data that concurrently shows improved clinical patient outcomes and quality improvement? I have my doubts.
ArtWittmann
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ArtWittmann,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/7/2012 | 6:23:56 PM
re: 10 Medical Robots That Could Change Healthcare
Second slide - robot schmobot, how about that cool tiger maple imperial sofa. No THAT'S cool!
Cara Latham
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Cara Latham,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/7/2012 | 5:18:44 PM
re: 10 Medical Robots That Could Change Healthcare
While I think most of these robots are innovative and extremely helpful for many patients, I think I would be nervous to have the "microbots" inside of my body. I just think I would be worried that in the event of a malfunction, the microbots would not be able to exit quickly.
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