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Cabarrus Magazine

Robotics in Medicine? Atrium Health Says It's the Future!

Aug 14, 2018 02:13PM ● By Jason Huddle
According to Universal robots, medical robotics has been on a steady rise globally in the past few years. This trend is expected to continue in subsequent years, a growth which is necessitated by the need to use robots in less invasive surgeries, more so for laparoscopic procedures, orthopedic, and neurology. Robots have evolved and continued advancements have enabled them to play a range of roles in the medical sector.

Robots which are specifically utilized for human treatment include rehabilitation and surgical robots, including here locally at CHS Northeast Hospital. “At Atrium Health, we’re constantly looking for tools and best practices that can help our ongoing efforts to deliver the best care to our patients,” said Lisa Tadlock, Assistant Vice President Surgical Services. “Robotics is one of the many technologies that our clinical teams utilize to ensure that we are providing patients with the safest care, the best outcomes and the shortest recovery times. This will only become more important as healthcare moves towards value-based systems and as patients have more options for healthcare services.”

 Elsewhere, the use of therapeutic and assistive robots is increasing rapidly. They include; empathic robots which help take care of mentally, physically, or elderly people, and robots that assist patients to recover from life threatening conditions such as stroke, and industrial robots for sale which execute various scheduled tasks such as delivering medical equipment, and supplies, or disinfecting rooms.

How can robots be used in the medical sector appropriately? Below are some ways.

1.     Telepresence

Robots help doctors to test and treat patients in remote or rural areas through virtual reality technology. Doctors could use the robot to offer therapy guide or answer patient questions from remote locations. The main characteristics of these robots are; intricate cameras for carrying out physical tests, and navigation ability.

2.     Rehabilitation Robots

Rehabilitation robots assist patients with disabilities to recover. They help enhance an individual’s quality of life, strength, mobility and coordination. They can be customized to fit each patient’s condition whether they suffer from spinal or traumatic brain damage, injury, stroke,  and neuromuscular or neurobehavioral related diseases which include multiple sclerosis. Rehabilitation robots are integrated with virtual reality which enhances various motor functions such as walking, and balance.

3.      Surgical Assistants

These robots are regulated through a remote. They help surgeons perform surgeries with minimal invasions. The major milestone in these complex robots is that physicians can operate them away from the operating room. In addition, surgical robotic applications continue to undergo advancements and this enables surgeons to obtain spatial references required during intricate surgeries. They come with augmented reality and improved stereo visualization.

4.     Transportation Robots

These robots are used to transfer meals, medication, and other supplies to staff and patients. This reduces the workload hence enabling patients, hospital staff, and doctors to interact better. Modern day robots come with enhanced dedicated abilities to allow for self navigation within the facility. However, the facility should be installed with enhanced and cost friendly indoor navigation structures based upon sensor integration location technology to provide powerful navigational capabilities for robot efficiency.

5.     Robotic Prescription And Dispensing Systems

Robots come with enhanced precision and speed which is critical especially in pharmacies. Robotic dispensing systems have evolved and robots, can today handle extra viscous materials, liquids, and powder with added precision and speed unlike in the past.

6.     Sanitation and Disinfection Robots

Dangerous infection outbreaks and antibiotic defiant bacteria have been on the increase lately. This calls for enhanced sterilization of healthcare facility surfaces and robots are now being used to clean and sterilize. The main sterilization methods presently in use are; hydrogen peroxide vapors, and UV light. Robots can sterilize rooms and free them of any viruses and bacteria within a short time.

Future Robots

Robot companies such as Universal robots continue to design advanced robots to cater for the increasing demand for a variety of robotic applications within the healthcare industry. Currently, the company is finalizing plans to develop a compressed high accuracy surgical robot which will operate alongside the MRI scanner.

In addition, it will come with software and electronic regulation systems to enhance precision of prostate biopsy. There are various technological challenges involved such as; developing software interfaces and communications pact. In addition, an MRI scanner utilizes a robust magnet, actuators, sensors, and a robot all of which should be made of non-ferrous materials. However, a team of technicians is working hard to achieve this.


Currently, existing technologies have been utilized to consolidate expertise in healthcare operations. However, robotic systems have enabled healthcare professionals to make major progress in the medical sector. Perhaps we'll see unassisted robotic surgeons one day. Time will tell.

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