In the last blog we had a brief look at a few types of robots being used in the Farming industry. Another biological field where robotics is being used is in the medical sector. The use of medical robots is growing and its not difficult to see why. Robots can be more precise, are less likely to make mistakes and can move and react faster than a human can. Most people still want to have human decision making involved in surgery and so the technology is trending towards robotic assisted surgery where a surgeon operates robotic arms like in the picture above. In the future, as AI technology improves rapidly, it is not too hard to believe that AI controlled robotic arms will be able to automate surgery just like in Sci-fi movies.

A case study of a robotic assisted surgery that can give a good insight into how it works is the Versius Robot developed by a company called CMR Surgical who are based in Cambridge. The robot has independent mechanical arms that are controlled by a surgeon and are able to perform keyhole surgery. Keyhole surgery involves making smaller incisions and working more precisely, allowing patients to see quicker recovery times and less pain. Training a surgeon to use the Versius system is also relatively very quick. 

Photo: CMR Surgical

Photo: CMR Surgical

Surgery is not the only medical area that robots are able to lend a hand in. Robotics is seeing applications in rehabilitation for people with disabilities, transportation of medical supplies, delivery of medicine and hot meals, automated prescription dispensors and also disinfecting and cleaning. One of the other large areas of momentum that deserves a mention is the prosthetics industry. Robotic prosthetics are getting more complex each year and are better able to imitate human body parts with each new iteration. Interestingly there doesn’t seem to be any Prosthetic businesses in the east of England but with assets like Norwich Research Park and its world class research institutes and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital it seems like it would be a perfect fit. 

Photo: Pyxis Helpmate Robot from 1993!

KUKA Medical Robotics are a global leader based in Germany, they use their robotics in various applications, including robotic assisted surgery, but they also use robots f0r lifting people, as often unconscious or disabled people need to be moved or held for different tests. They have large robotics systems helping to innovate imaging and therapies like x-rays and particle and radiation therapies.

BD are a company that develop robots to automate healthcare including medication provision. The Pyxis Medstation System will dispense accurate medication with a range of built in safety features. The image to the left is one of the earlier iterations of a pyxis pharmacy robot. 

Xenex are an american company that create disinfectant robots. This is important because of the problems hospitals can have with the spread of infectious diseases. These robots can reduce the time that clinicians need to spend cleaning and will ultimately benefit patients by keeping them safe from the threat of more infection when they are at their weakest and by allowing clinicians to spend more of their time helping treat patients.

Hopefully this has been an interesting intro into how robotics can blend with Healthcare -check back again in two weeks for another blog!