Physicians and patients benefit from cutting-edge advances.
Healthcare is a hotbed for new technology, and robotics have seen some of the most innovative advances in recent years. Robotics may help physicians deliver better care, improve efficiency in hospitals, and even restore lost mobility to patients.
Surgical robots are perhaps the most visible example of robotics in a hospital, where they have been used for more than a decade in minimally invasive procedures, including heart and lung surgeries. Robotic-assisted surgery offers a higher degree of precision and promotes faster healing compared to traditional “open” surgery. Today, advances may help patients avoid surgery altogether.
The miniaturization of technology has led to robots that operate remotely inside the body. This includes tiny, drill-like robots that are threaded through a leg artery to the heart and clear blockages that would otherwise require open-heart surgery.
These trends hold promise of a near-future where swarms of “microbots” travel through the bloodstream, and proactively identify and treat health issues before the onset of symptoms. For example, these tiny machines could one day find and destroy cancer cells before they develop into tumors.
Beyond the operating room, robotics give physicians the ability to provide care from anywhere in the world. Using telemedicine technology, a doctor can take control of a six-foot tall robot that features a video monitor, cameras, microphones and speakers. Through a computer, the physician can then virtually navigate around a hospital to view and converse with patients and even perform exams from a remote location.
Of course, advancements in robotics are not only limited to helping physicians provide care. People with disabilities are increasingly using robotics to restore lost dexterity and function through technologies like powered prosthetic limbs capable of grasping items as fragile as eggs. Researchers at Ithaca College have even used robotic platforms to restore mobility to disabled infants.
“As time goes on and costs come down, the opportunities for robotics are almost limitless for people with disabilities,” said Carole Dennis, M.A., Sc.D., a professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at Ithaca College. “We have a long way to go, but there are a lot of exciting possibilities.”