10 Dec, 2014 image

5 WAYS ROBOTICS IS REVOLUTIONIZING HEALTHCARE

From aiding medical professionals to those with disabilities themselves, robots are revolutionizing the medical world and playing a major role in the way that we view healthcare today. This is not something that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has overlooked – the organization is now funding robotics research to further extend the reach of healthcare for those with disabilities. The NIH is just one of the major names participating in the Interagency National Robotics Initiative to support robotics research.

The project is projected to receive approximately $2.3 million in funding over the next five years, facilitating the major potential for robotics developments. With a reach far greater than ever expected, robots will continue to aid and assist where needed. Here are just five of the current medical uses of robots today:

Simplifying Surgery

In years past, the only solution to curing epilepsy was a dramatic brain surgery that involved nothing short of drilling into the skull. Today, researchers at Vanderbilt are working to change the way doctors take on epilepsy. This is made possible through a robotic technology that performs brain surgery with a minimally-invasive procedure by entering the patient’s cheek.

The da Vinci surgical system has participated in 1.5 million successful surgeries to date. The system is utilized by physicians across the world to help perform routine and repetitive motions, freeing up doctors to work on more crucial procedures and speeding up the process.

Hospital Helper

Another method for freeing up doctors and nurses in hospitals is the installation of robot hospital helpers. These bots are being used to deliver messages and samples to hospitals in a timely and effective manner. TUG and Hospi are two delivery robots that can be found navigating hospital halls with a GPS set to a final destination by doctors. By automating simple delivery tasks, medical personnel can spend more time tending to patients.

Paraplegic Possibilities

Earlier this year, Rewalk Robotics received the first FDA approval for its exoskeleton, allowing paraplegics the personal use of the device. The exoskeleton is a wearable technology that helps those who have lost function in their legs to regain the ability to walk on their own. While the going rate lays somewhere around $60,000, this is a major step in the right direction for paraplegics around the world.

Elderly Care

Over the next few decades, the world is going to see a major increase in the population over the age of 65. With the pressure to tend to this growing age bracket, the automation of some home-care activities becomes more and more necessary. Paro, Pearl, and Pepper are just a few of the names on the mobile assistive robotic market developed to provide simple, yet important services. Robots of this nature can detect if a fall or accident takes place, then alert medical personnel.

In less serious situations, they serve as therapeutic entertainment for those suffering from depression or dementia. The functions of these robots help to ensure a sense of independence in elderly lives. iRobot’s Roomba is one of the most successful elderly care devices, keeping a clean environment for homeowners that would otherwise be incapable. These technologies allow for the elderly to remain secure and productive in the comfort of their own homes.

Aiding Autism

Similar to therapeutic robots for the elderly, there are also socially-assistive robots to help those with autism develop social skills. Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder and therefore requires a need for further research, some of which lies in robotics. This tool uses robots as co-therapists, a proven method that may help some autistic children apply learned social skills. By using these humanoid robots, such as Kelly by researchers at the University of Notre Dame, children with special needs are encouraged to interact and relate in simple conversation.

Again, these are just a sampling of the amazing applications of robots in the medical world. Expect to hear about far more developments in robotic healthcare in coming years as technology only continues to intensify.

 

By: Erica Allaby, ROBO Research & Content Writer

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