Owing to the ongoing pandemic, the adoption of robotics – across sectors has accelerated, thereby changing the robotics’ landscape in India and across globe. Not only are companies relying on automation, but even hospitals are using robots – right from delivering food to even collecting swab samples of patients. Surgical robots powered by AI are bringing new innovations and accuracy to the operating room. In IEEE’s recent global study, “Generation AI 2020: Health, Wellness and Technology in a Post-COVID World,” that revealed the confidence Millennial parents with Generation Alpha children (under 11 years-old) in the U.S., U.K., India, China and Brazil may have in AI and emerging technologies for the health and wellness of their families, 39% of parents in India are extremely likely to allow robotic surgery on their child.
One can clearly state that new age robotics will be a central pillar for the development and will be an inevitable part of Industry 4.0 in India. As per the recent World Robotics Report 2020, India moved up one position to now feature among the top 10 countries with the most annual installments, India has almost doubled the number of Industrial robots in the last 5 years thanks to the huge demand coming from various sectors. One of the sectors that is under a phase of transition in India is, the healthcare ecosystem and with the global pandemic hitting the country, there is an increased need to build a reliable and efficient system.
Implications of robotics in the Healthcare industry
Robotics has several implications; one field of expertise could be tele-medicine which is becoming increasingly important. Along with remote diagnosis, physicians are able to effectively utilize their time to be spent with multiple patients from different geographies.Medical logistics is another field where technology could assist with number of patients, organisation of records and other clinical consumables for patients under critical care. It is also imperative to minimize human movement between level-3 and above ICUs and other areas – in such cases emerging technology can assist.
With the help of Predictive diagnosis one can easily identify disease on the very onset of problems so that physicians/surgeons get enough time to act upon. Such processes have not only saved lives of patients, but also improved the quality of treatment that prevents the damage of organs and their functionalities – as otherwise in the case of delayed diagnosis.One of the later stage implications include, Robotic surgery that is one of the fastest growing and highly promising applications of technology into medicine. Robotization allows the surgeons to perform highly complicated procedures with ease due to the increased dexterity coupled with advanced HD 3D vision and precise manoeuvrability. The system provides full-fledged real-time connectivity of the surgeon and the area under surgery – in terms of Visual, Auditory, Tactile and Haptic means.
As the pandemic has influenced the direction of latest trends in all technology applications, it has become mandatory to maintain the new world order. The COVID-19 outbreak has taught the world several lessons, one of the important one is to use technological innovation in its full potential.
India on its path to hi-tech health-tech
Robots are now being used in various hospitals across the country to support the health workers from getting infected inside the quarantine zone. Robots are fully capable of autonomously navigating inside the isolation ward to transport and dispense food and medical supplies for patients under care. They can also engage the patients as well as initiate video conferencing between patients and the physician/ caregiver from a remote location. These robots can also have the added feature of being able to disinfect the used items and the premises using ultra-violet radiation and disinfectants like Sodium Hypochlorite or electrostatic spray.
With more complex medical applications such as surgery and diagnostics etc, the robustness, clinical integration and scaling up remain a challenge at large, it will take a concerted effort of scientists, engineers, and medical professionals to make this a reality. Having said that, the need for automation in all verticals needs to be explored as the pandemic has also reasserted the dire need to invest in new digital infrastructure, vital projects and innovation for a better tomorrow.
(Jayakrishnan T, Senior IEEE Member & CEO, Asimov Robotics Pvt. Ltd and the views expressed in this article are his own)