April 17, 2024

Medical Robots Mastery: Transforming Patient Care

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One way medical robots are changing healthcare is through the use of telepresence robots. These robots allow doctors to examine, diagnose, and treat patients located anywhere through a remote video and audio connection. The robot is controlled by the physician using a computer or mobile device and has cameras, microphones, and speakers so the doctor can see and talk to the patient in real time.

Telepresence robots are helpful for patients in remote or rural areas who have limited access to specialists. With a telepresence robot, a cardio specialist in a major city hospital could virtually visit a rural clinic to examine a patient and determine if they need to be transferred for additional care. Telepresence robots also enable doctors to continue practice when unable to be physically present, such as during a pandemic, natural disaster, or personal medical leave. This protects continuity of care.

Surgical Robots Improve Precision of Minimally Invasive Surgeries

Another major role of medical robots is assisting surgeons during complex operations. Surgical robots like the da Vinci system allow doctors to perform minimally invasive procedures through tiny incisions with improved precision, flexibility, and control over open surgeries.

Robot-assisted surgery is used for many types of procedures but is especially valuable for advanced cancer surgeries that require navigating among critical organs and vessels. The robotic systems filter hand tremors and scale surgeon motions down to allow for intricate suturing and tissue manipulation inside the body.

Research shows surgical robots can reduce a patient’s risk of complications, shorten recovery times, and help patients return to normal activities sooner compared to traditional open surgeries. As the technology advances, robot-assisted surgery will likely become the standard of care for many conditions.

Exoskeletons Empower Individuals with Mobility Impairments

For people with mobility challenges due to conditions like spinal cord injuries, stroke, or multiple sclerosis, medical exoskeletons are transforming lives. Exoskeletons are robotics worn on the body that work in tandem with the user’s movements.

Some exoskeletons are designed to help users stand up from a seated position, while others can assist with walking. The devices use sensors to detect the user’s intended movement and then power joints with electric motors to amplify their natural movements. This allows individuals who otherwise use wheelchairs the freedom and wellness benefits of being mobile and active.

As exoskeleton technologies advance, the ability of these devices to restore function will likely increase. Newer systems can already help people walk up and down stairs, increase walking speed and endurance, and improve community participation. Medical exoskeletons represent an amazing development for empowering individuals with mobility impairments.

Smart Prosthetics for Amputees Gain Intelligence and Precision

Thanks to advancements in myoelectric sensing, 3D printing, battery technology and other areas, prosthetic limbs are gaining new intelligence and human-like abilities. Myoelectric prosthetics pick up electrical signals from remaining muscles to intuitively sense what movement the user intends to make, like opening and closing a hand.

Newer smart prosthetics go beyond basic grasping motions and can perform complex dexterous tasks like tying shoes, playing musical instruments, or using computers and smartphones. The Modular Prosthetic Limb from DARPA-funded research is an early example, allowing six distinct hand positions through pattern recognition of muscle contractions.

As prosthetics become more dexterous and closely integrated with the peripheral nervous system, amputees may recover near-normal function and sensation. Ongoing research focuses on developing prosthetics that can sense touch, temperature, and even pain to provide full sensory feedback from the artificial limb to the brain. For individuals living with limb loss, intelligent prosthetics offer greater independence and quality of life.

Robot Companions Provide Assistance and Social Engagement

While not medical devices per se, socially assistive robots are also improving quality of life, especially for older adults. These robots are designed primarily for social engagement, companionship and assistance with daily activities.

One popular example is ElliQ from Anthropic, an AI assistant displayed on a tabletop device. ElliQ can remind users to take medications, provide daily schedules and notifications, play relaxing music or games, and offer gentle movement suggestions. Its conversational abilities also help decrease loneliness and social isolation which pose major health risks for the elderly.

As robot companions continue advancing, they may have ever greater roles in areas like telehealth, remote patient monitoring, medication adherence and even simple exercise coaching. Their social functions can boost mental wellness, which improves physical outcomes as well. Socially assistive robots demonstrate robotics’ potential to care for both medical and non-medical needs and enhance quality of life.

Conclusion

From surgery to mobility solutions, medical robots today are benefiting patients and pioneering new standards of care. As robotic technologies rapidly progress in areas like artificial intelligence, sensing, and materials science, their capacities to diagnose and treat conditions will multiply. While medical robots will likely never fully replace human providers, they represent an enormously promising tool for expanding access to care, improving outcomes, and empowering individuals with disabilities. By collaborating with clinicians, engineers are helping fulfill the vision of personalized, proactive healthcare for all.

*Note:
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it