Robotics

How robots are revolutionising healthcare

15th August 2022
Sheryl Miles

Modern robots are gaining both intellectual and mechanical skills that will push the current boundaries of their capabilities and functionality. As the technologies powering these robots advance, what other use cases will emerge? As Technical writer, Devin Partida, explains, one sector that can greatly benefit from robots is the healthcare sector. How can robots play a role in healthcare, and what does the future hold for healthcare robotics?

This article originally appeared in the July'22 magazine issue of Electronic Specifier Design – see ES's Magazine Archives for more featured publications.

The healthcare robotics market

Medical robots are helping a range of healthcare professionals work more efficiently and with higher levels of accuracy. In some cases, robots assist doctors with tasks they haven’t been able to do in the past. According to a report from Research and Markets, the global medical robotics market is expected to hit $30.41 billion by 2027. Robots are becoming increasingly efficient and able to be used for various purposes, driving widespread adoption in the healthcare industry.

Other driving forces behind using robots in healthcare include:

  • Advancements in, and increasing adoption of, robotic systems
  • Increased funding for medical robot research
  • The realisation of robot-assisted surgeries and their benefits
  • The advantages of robot-assisted training in rehabilitation therapy

Alongside the above benefits, robots offer further advantages in the medical field, including shorter hospital stays, lower operating costs, and reduced risks of post-surgical problems for patients.

Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare industry faces labour shortages. A recent survey found that 30% of U.S. healthcare workers lost or quit their jobs, 31% of workers considered leaving during the pandemic, and 19% thought about leaving the healthcare workforce entirely.

It’s possible the adoption of robotics in the healthcare sector could serve as a solution to ongoing labour shortages that are straining the nation’s entire healthcare system.

Types of robots transforming the healthcare sector

There are various types of robots in the medical field that provide multiple benefits: the following subsections explore three core healthcare robotics technologies and how they work.

Exoskeletons

Exoskeletons have traditionally been used in physically demanding jobs, such as manufacturing and logistics occupations, but they’re now carving out a place in healthcare. Robotic exoskeletons use various technologies, including sensors, actuators, algorithms, mechanical structures, and control strategies, to execute and mimic human motor functions.

A critical part of exoskeleton functionality is cognitive human-robot interaction (cHRI). Bioelectric signals, like the electromyogram (EMG), electroenceph[1]alogram (EEG), and electrooculogram (EOG), assist with cHRI. Pneumatic, hydraulic, and electric actuators, among other sensor technologies, also assist in the second aspect of exoskeleton functionality, known as physical human-robot interaction (pHRI). Designing an exoskeleton is highly technical but greatly beneficial in the medical field.

Surgical robots

Robotic surgery is commonplace in the modern healthcare industry: the technology allows doctors to perform minimally invasive procedures, which lead to shorter hospitalisations and a faster period of recovery for patients. A trained surgeon will use master controls to manipulate various robotic instruments during robotic surgery.

The instruments respond to the movements to help perform surgical procedures. The systems behind surgical robotics are not capable (yet) of performing surgery on their own. All movements come directly from the surgeon, helping them operate with next-level precision. Health conditions such as heart surgery, endometriosis, thoracic surgery, gynaecological surgery, and urologic surgery have all benefited from using surgical robots.

Social robots, robotic companions, and care robots

There’s a shortage of caregivers and nursing home employees in the industry. Robots may be a viable solution for these shortages. Advanced companion robots provide social interaction to patients (especially older patients who reside in a nursing home) and help with daily tasks or the combating of loneliness.

These robots are partly or fully autonomous and offer benefits such as companionship, support for daily activities, medication compliance, and health monitoring. They often come with state-of-the-art navigation tech and sensory and perception systems. It’s possible that future care robots may come equipped with facial recognition algorithms and telepresence technology and will connect to IoT wearable devices to monitor patient health closely.

The future of healthcare: robots leading the way

The field of advanced robotics is often described as ‘futuristic’ or even ‘something straight out of a science fiction movie’, such as the films iRobot, The Terminator, or WALL-E.

Professionals in science, engineering, and technology know this is simply untrue. Robots already play a significant role in advancing the healthcare sector, and they will likely evolve and offer even more benefits in the future.

Featured products

Product Spotlight

Upcoming Events

View all events
Newsletter
Latest global electronics news
© Copyright 2022 Electronic Specifier