A robot could soon be a regular member of the medical staff across the country, taking a patient’s pulse, scanning vital signs, taking pictures and even reading case notes. Then, this information is sent to a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant, who can advise the doctor as to the patient’s condition.

The Most Important Robots in Medicine

Len Calderone for | RoboticsTomorrow

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Meet your doctor.  Well, maybe not just yet; but we are starting to see robot assistants for doctors, such as appointment booking, basic triage, test result analysis, prescription requests, decision support, referral requesting, and much more,

A robot could soon be a regular member of the medical staff across the country, taking a patient’s pulse, scanning vital signs, taking pictures and even reading case notes. Then, this information is sent to a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant, who can advise the doctor as to the patient’s condition. This robot can even wheel itself to the bedside at speeds of up to 5 mph, while being remotely controlled with a joystick from miles away.

Here are some of the most advanced medical robots today.

1 in every 25 patients will contract hospital acquired infections (HAIs) such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and C. diff (Clostridium difficile), and 1 in 9 will die. The Xenex Robot allows for fast and effective systematic disinfection of any space within a healthcare facility. This helpful robot destroys deadly microorganisms causing HAIs by utilizing special UV disinfection. The Xenex Robot is very effective in triggering cellular damage to microorganisms—thereby reducing the number of HAIs.

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As the anesthesiologist is about to put you asleep for your operation, you more than likely will see the da Vinci robot hovering over you rather than a real human medical surgeon. The da Vinci Surgical System enables the surgeon to operate with enhanced vision, precision and control. Da Vinci is a major factor to assure a successful procedure.

The da Vinci Surgical System features a magnified 3D high-definition vision system and tiny wristed instruments that bend and rotate far greater than the human hand. With the da Vinci Surgical System, surgeons operate through just a few small incisions. The surgeon is 100% in control of the robotic system at all times, and he or she is able to carry out more precise operations than previously thought possible.

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The TUG robot can carry around a multitude of racks, carts or bins up to 1,000 pounds in the form of medications, laboratory specimens or other sensitive materials. Using a touch screen, the TUG is sent to whatever location in the hospital it is needed. When finished, it returns to the charging dock while it is loaded for the next trip. Since these robots work around the clock, fewer employees are needed for the difficult nightshift. The staff can spend more time with patients or assist the nurses instead of transporting supplies throughout the hospital. Another advantage is that personnel do not have to carry around heavy loads, avoiding related injuries.

Value of robotic delivery in hospitals

RIBA (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance) is used for care patients who need assistance. It can lift and move patients in and out of bed into a wheelchair, help patients to stand, and to turn them to prevent bed sores as many times as needed.

RIBA makes up for the shortage of care takers; and it saves human personnel from having to carry out strenuous tasks, such as lifting patients out of bed many times a day. RIBA can lift and carry patients up to 134lbs. RIBA does this by using a combination of its very strong human-like arms and by unique tactile guidance methods, using high-accuracy tactile sensors.

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In the 1966 movie, Fantastic Voyage,  a submarine crew is shrunk to microscopic size and is injected into the body of an injured scientist to repair damage to his brain. Now, thanks to microbots, this is coming true, except for the crew part.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute have been experimenting with exceptionally micro-sized robots that are smaller than a millimeter. These robots swim through a patient’s bodily fluids and could be used to deliver drugs or other medical relief in a highly-targeted way. These scallop-like microbots are designed to swim through non-Newtonian fluids, like your bloodstream, around your lymphatic system, or across the slippery goo on the surface of your eyeballs.

These robotic micro-swimmers use a scallop swimming motion to move around. The researchers call this process "modulation of the fluid viscosity upon varying the shear rate." Simply, this means that the micro scallops open and close their "shells" to compress the fluid and force it out behind them, which then propels them forward.

The shell is only a few times larger than the thickness of a human hair. A liquid, like water, is about as sticky for these devices as honey is for us. Ferromagnetic actuators (basically magnetically-operated hinges) are used to open and close the shells under the influence of an applied external alternating magnetic field—on to close, off to open.

At around 800 microns, the microbots are miniscule enough to make their way through your bloodstream, around your lymphatic system, or across the slippery goo on the surface of your eyeballs. Their simplicity makes them ideal to be printed on a 3D printer.

These tiny robots are being studied to treat a variety of diseases and are designed to enter the body and deliver drugs at a specific location or to perform precise operations like clearing clogged arteries. These bots have the potential to reduce the number of surgeries currently required for various procedures.

Many people fear having their blood drawn at the doctor’s office or lab. It’s pretty scary when it is carried out with a needle. Sometimes it takes more than one attempt until the nurse or the phlebotomist finds the appropriate vein.  Veebot is a blood drawing robot that helps speed-up the procedure. With Veebot, the whole process takes about a minute, and tests show that it can correctly identify the best vein with approximately 83% accuracy, which is about as good as an experienced human phlebotomist.

Over the decades, needle usage has not changed while the healthcare costs associated with injury continue to escalate. The needle experience for both patient and caregiver can be fraught with inaccuracies, errors, significant costs, and even life-threatening infections and administrative errors. Some technicians, who draw blood, have only a weekend of training, practicing on a dummy arm on Saturday and sticking your vein on Monday.

20% of all attempts to draw blood fail on the first try. There are over 36 million IV insertions a year. There are 170,000 adverse effects because of mislabeled blood samples.

Veebot uses a unique real-time vein viewing system that accurately suggests and selects preferred insertion sites. This saves hospitals and clinics money, reduces the risk of injury to practitioners, and improves comfort and care for patients.

IBM is developing Watson to help professionals with complex decision making, like the kind that occurs in oncologists’ offices, and to point out clinical nuances that health professionals might miss on their own. According to IBM, Watson can digest information and make recommendations much more quickly, and more intelligently, than perhaps any machine before it—processing up to 60 million pages of text per second.

80 percent of all medical information is unstructured. In medicine, it consists of physician notes, academic journals, and information stored online by public-health departments. Watson can make sense of it all. It can sit in on patient examinations, silently listening. Over time, it can learn so that it gets better at figuring out medical problems and treatments. It can also recommend treatments. AI will be a very important part of medicine.

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These are just some of the important robots in medicine today. What will tomorrow bring?

 

Len Calderone - Contributing Editor

Len contributes to this publication on a regular basis. Past articles can be found with an Article Search and his profile on our Associates Page

He also writes short stores that always have a surprise ending. These can be found at http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Megalen

 

Len Calderone
 
 

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