Workplace Robots Part 3 – Health Care
We began our workplace automation series by dealing mostly with highly automated manufacturing and robotic delivery. We followed that with a post which was lighter, and focused on robots and drones in the service and travel industries.
This post, part three, is focused on something quite important- how robotics and automation can improve the delivery of healthcare.
Health Care Automation and Robotic Medicine
Current robots in use in operating rooms and outpatient facilities may simply extend a surgeon’s capacities; they reduce any effect of hand tremors and facilitate complex movement and allow for more precise procedures. Even with this level of help, some say the current state of surgical robot technology is just a fancier tool under direct human control.
However, there is a new set of robotic technologies which will more fully automate various types of surgeries. One such technology is called “Cyberknife” by Accuray. According to the company, cyberknife is non invasive, using targeted beams of ultra high radiation delivered to specific types of tumors. Cancers which can be treated include prostate, lung, brain, spine, pancreas, kidney and liver. The company claims that this technology is the world’s first non invasive robotic radiosurgery tool.
…The CyberKnife System’s treatment accuracy is unrivaled. Its ability to treat tumors with pin-point accuracy is unmatched by other radiation therapy and radiosurgery systems. The CyberKnife System can essentially “paint” the tumor with radiation allowing it to precisely deliver treatment to the tumor alone, sparing surrounding healthy tissue…
Knee and Hip Surgery Automation
Currently there are two firms which have introduced products to automate the process of repairing hip and knee joints.
Think Surgical’s automation begins by creating a “TPLAN” – a 3D map of the knee or hip area to be repaired, followed by using Think Surgical’s “TCAT” tool which follows the procedure path laid out in the TPLAN.
The Second firm, Stryker, uses technology from Mako (a company it recently acquired)- The Stryker Mako will be used for partial knee replacement procedures. It too use a pre-defined 3d map, in order to ensure the surgeon only removes the diseased bone.
Patient Assistance Robots
Aethon’s TUG robot carries carts or racks which can contain lab specimens, medicine, and time sensitive or confidential materials. They also can deliver meals and clean sheets as well as remove soiled sheets or medical waste.
The Robot for Interactive Body Assistance, or “RIBA” (seen above) is somewhat similar to the TUG robot, but is used in home care applications for patients who need assistance. There is a version made for the Japan market,which features a bear shaped head. Each is able to assist in standing, or moving from a bed to a wheel chair. or simply moving from place to place. These robots can be used in a health care facility or at home for those that need additional mobility.
Infection Fighting Robot
Xenex is an infection fighting robot which uses UV light to disinfect a room, rather than a human who’d have to use harsh chemicals( which may be less effective) In addition to saving labor time, the Xenex has proven to be a potent tool, with hospitals reporting significant reductions in germs and viruses. In the industry, infections caused by a hospital stay are simply labeled “Hospital Acquired Infections” or HAI’s:
…Infections, such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and C. diff (Clostridium difficile), can devastate and kill patients. Current CDC statistics show that in the United States, 1 in every 25 patients will contract an HAI and of those, 1 in 9 will die. HAIs cost the healthcare industry upwards of $30 billion dollars annually.
For those with a technical bent, the device featured “pulsed xenon full spectrum disinfection” The company’s research indicates that its Xenex has had success combating a large number of dangerous infections including C.Diff and MRSA.
Healthcare Robotics Lab
At Georgia Tech, researchers are working on the next steps in healthcare robotics and automation. The university’s research includes work on Haptic perception (devices the sense touch/movement) and robots that will assist patients in dressing themselves. The school even has a project to develop a bed, which can communicate with a linked mobile robot, providing real time patient health status.
From patient assistance, to robotic surgery, to infection reduction- it’s clear that robots have already proven themselves as key tools for healthcare. There are scores of projects that were not in the scope of this post, but are equally valuable in ensuring positive patient outcomes. Here at The WorkSmith, we’ll be keeping an eye on this topic, and will be sure to return to it as healthcare automation continues to advance.
Next up, in part 4, we’ll cover how the Transportation industry is being effected by the increased use of drones, as well as autonomous driving- and flying!