Cobots – A Helping Hand to the Healthcare Industry
All industrial processing systems turned to automation that is driven by the need for high accuracy, precision and performance of industrial processes, in the past couple of decades. Technological advancements in today’s day and age have taken the use of automated machines and robotics one step forward. The application of robotics and automation has been successfully achieved in a wide range of industries dealing with well defined processes and products like the manufacturing industry, FMCG, automotive industry, the healthcare industry, to name a few.
The healthcare industry has faced its share of challenges. One of the major challenges is inefficiency and documents subject to high human error in a non-automated environment. This also leads to substantial amount of time dedicated to administrative activities, restricting their movements or engagements in the workplace. Duplicate data entries along with misplacement of patient documents are also a major challenge.
E- prescriptions, automated billing, electronic medical records and appointment reminders, advanced scheduling, clinic management, insurance claim automation and inventory management are some of the IT solutions due to automation.
With recent technological developments, robots are venturing into the healthcare industry with careful manual supervision. Robotic medical assistants monitor patient vital statistics and alert nurses when there is a need for human presence, allowing a nurse to monitor multiple patients simultaneously. These assistants also automatically enter information into the patient electronic health record. Robotic carts may be seen moving through hospital corridors carrying supplies. Robots have also started assisting surgeons, which allow the surgeons greater precision and a higher success rate with their operations.
These robots also undertake simple tasks like drawing blood, check patients’ vital signs and conditions, and take care of the patients’ hygiene if needed. Robots also prepare and dispense medications in pharmacological labs. There are also “gears and wires” robotic assistants that help paraplegics move and administer physical therapy.
Physiotherapy treatments are widely applied to help restore movement and functions to individuals who have been affected by injury, illness or disability. Traditionally, many physiotherapy treatments have been performed manually by physiotherapists who repeat the treatments regularly - usually on a daily basis - for a prescribed number of weeks to mobilize joints and soft tissues.
With the idea of higher production rate and the need for human interaction with machine automation, the Collaborative robots were first developed in 2008 by Universal Robots. Universal Robots are the leading manufacturers of advanced user-friendly and light industrial robotic arms from Denmark. Their latest technological advancement in collaborative robots or ‘Co-bots’ was brought out in the international market with a peculiar intention which is in line with Industrial 4.0; which is in sync with the automated revolution in the healthcare industry.
Over the past three years, however, a vision-guided robotic system called the CBot has been under development in the Northern part of Spain that can apply several types of such physiotherapy automatically. While the condition of the patient is still diagnosed by a trained physician, the robotic system emulates the role of the physiotherapist, relieving heavily-burdened clinics from their workload.
Three robotic arms from Universal Robots were incorporated into this piece of technology so engineers could easily adapt the software to the specific needs of the patient and the required tasks. The easy programming, installation and collaborative nature of the industrial robot arms allow surgeons, nurses, theater staff, and robots to work side-by-side and care for patients.
The collaborative robots have also been of help in various sections of the healthcare industry such as:
Rehabilitation from injuries caused by blood clots and strokes
The Patient@Home Project was developed by the Odense University Hospital Neuro-rehabilitation Centre in Ringe, and Universal Robots, to assist people rehabilitating from blood clot and stroke related injuries. The service robot is called Rainer and is designed to help patients with repetitive functional movements as part of their rehabilitation process. This technology can support therapists by allowing them to set up specific training programs that the patients can undertake safely with the robot. There are a lot of opportunities as part of this initiative.
Supporting nursing staff and therapists take care of bed-ridden patients
In Denmark, Robert ApS has developed a rehabilitation robot to assist health professionals with patients who are bed-ridden. Called Robert, this service robot, provides patients with the best possible care to help them recover quickly. Robert can assist nursing staff and therapists with numerous tasks including heavy lifting, which is required regularly during a patient’s recovery process.
Helping in Manufacturing of Intra Ocular Lenses
Universal Robots have been working with Aurolab which is associated with the healthcare centre. Aurolab is associated with the Arvind Eye Care Systems and have provided them with co-bots that have increased affordability helping people regain vision at lower cost, and has considerably reduced the power consumption and quality problems. The labour force at Aurolab actually increased from 15 to 700 and production improved from 150 to 10,000 Intra Ocular Lenses (IOL) per day. They are exporting to over 130 countries due to superior quality of their lenses. Aurolab have seen a 15% increase in the annual product output.
Automation has been an indispensible part of the Indian manufacturing industry for decades now and has seen remarkable improvements in the efficiency and productivity of the industry.
According to IBEF, the Indian healthcare industry is currently pegged at around $158 billion and is expected to hit $280 billion by 2020. The use of automated machinery in the healthcare industry will be a timely expansion as healthcare services would be taken to the next level. Automation and incorporation of cobots will be the future of the Indian Healthcare Industry.
Automation of this sector has the potential to do so much good: to bring medical care to regions where even today there is none to be found; to lighten the load of medical professionals; to help people walk again. To reap the benefits and avoid the potential dangers of such a technological revolution we need to keep informed about the strides that science makes so that we can better prepare and adapt to the not-so-distant future where robots play a crucial role and work closely with us.