Stakeholders in the healthcare industry have taken note of how digital technology has made it possible to provide better-targeted interventions to patients worldwide. During the first half of 2020, digital health investment saw a record $5.4 billion in venture funding. While the global Health Tech market was valued at roughly $96 billion in 2019, the recent increased integration of robotics in healthcare, telemedicine, the massive adoption of medical wearables for health monitoring, as well as the overall impact of the pandemic is estimated to drive that valuation up to nearly $457 billion by 2028.
Technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning have gradually been integrating with the healthcare industry over the years, and we have seen time and time again the contributions of these advanced technologies towards enhanced efficiency in identifying diseases, diagnosing symptoms, developing treatment plans, and regular monitoring of patients’ health conditions.
What we mean when we talk about robots
Robots can do a great deal to support, assist, and extend essential services provided by health workers. While social and personal care robots are far from ubiquitous, artificial intelligence and robotics are already making strides across the healthcare industry. Also known as software robots, most of the robotics integrated with healthcare today are applications of robotic process automation (RPA) — technology that mimics back-office tasks such as extracting data and moving files. From administrative data entry to digital documents, appointment scheduling, records management and much more, integrating RPA can vastly improve the efficiency of healthcare delivery.
Mechanical engineering research and development has also yielded several successful “real life” robots dedicated to use in healthcare. Although they are a much less frequent occurrence than software robots, they cover a growing range of applications, such as: surgical robots that can assist medical professionals in delivering unprecedented precision in the operating room; exoskeleton robotics, which include uses such as surgery assistance, patient recovery aid, and wearable spinal support; and hospital assistance robots that can reliably take on disinfecting objects and spaces, as well as safely transporting medical tools and substances.
Present applications of robotics in healthcare
While saving time and resources, robots are more likely to help more people deliver better care than they are to replace them. By integrating technology across all aspects of the healthcare industry, we can fundamentally change how we prevent, diagnose and cure diseases. Below are just a few examples of current successful applications of robotics in healthcare.
Faster, safer, more efficient research and discovery
On average, it takes more than 10 years to bring a new drug from the lab to the patient. While everyone would benefit from the process moving faster, the quality and safety assurance protocols should not be compromised even if they take more time. Luckily, with the advances in robotics and artificial intelligence technology, we can have both. While drug research and discovery are two of the most recent applications of software robots, their high capacity to streamline processes has already shown great potential of significantly cutting both the time to market and cost.
Enhancing medical data application
Software robotics can help us build on the knowledge that medicine has accrued to date. By employing robotic and artificial intelligence processes in aggregating and analyzing medical information, we can make a diagnosis faster and more accurately, which translates into additional benefits down the line.
One such example is an A.I. program developed at the Houston Methodist Research Institute in Texas — the software robot reviews and processes millions of breast cancer pathology records and reliably returns a diagnostic with 99% accuracy — it does it 30 times faster than a human doctor. This generates immediate benefits for the healthcare provider, as it saves medical staff significant time otherwise spent reviewing data. It also allows them to provide care to more people sooner. According to the American Cancer Society, roughly half of mammograms performed traditionally in any given year yield false results — employing A.I. diagnostic assistance can benefit patients not only by returning more reliable results more quickly, but also by reducing the need for unnecessary biopsies or other confirmation procedures.
Equitably scaling healthcare access and delivery
Robotic process automation and A.I. in research and development can help us identify and improve on existing lapses in A.I. education programs, which enables the essential goal of making healthcare easier, quicker, and in some cases safer to access, as well as accessible to more people across greater distances.
Improving care and monitoring
Advanced computer tools and robots with A.I. can help medical professionals make better treatment recommendations tailored to each individual’s pathology. Assisted by the A.I.’s ability to draw quickly on a large database of scenarios, clinicians can offer treatment with a more comprehensive approach, which ensures a higher rate of compliance and success for the patient.
Furthermore, by integrating RPA in records management, communication, and remote care, along with high accessibility of wearable monitoring, healthcare providers can more efficiently offer continued care remotely in a way that reduces the number of necessary in-person monitoring appointments.
Robotics in future healthcare
With investments pouring into revolutionary health tech enterprises across the board, the possibilities truly seem endless.
Automation of back-office operations can significantly improve essential but cumbersome tasks, such as triage, by increasing the speed of processing, as well as more efficiently allocating hospital resources and connecting the patients with the best available clinical staff.
Universal integration of robotic surgical systems along human surgeons could contribute significantly to making both life-saving and life-improving surgery more accessible.
Interactive in-hospital patient monitoring robotics could provide comfortable round-the-clock bedside assistance and allow the nursing staff to better focus on higher complexity needs such as individualized patient care and devising treatment plans.
Dedicated personal companions could massively improve the quality of life of disabled individuals by providing support and monitoring, which would allow them a higher degree of independence and participation. As several nations currently struggle with future implications of a preponderantly aging population, robotic care companions could be employed to provide similar comfort and safety to the elderly.
Last but not least, a comprehensive nationwide broadband infrastructure combined with at-home or community telemedicine robotics hubs could massively expand the access to prompt healthcare for anything that does not essentially require a trip to the hospital, as well as preventative health care and timely counseling.
Software solutions to streamline your healthcare business
Digitalization future-proofs your healthcare business and sets it up for long-term success. SMEDIX can help you find the most fitting solutions for your stability and growth. Reach out to our team – we’re eager to create a better future for healthcare together.