Four types of robots already successfully used in healthcare

November 17, 2022
The most popular is the da Vinci robotic surgical system. 1,199 devices have already been implemented in Europe and 4,139 in the USA. Designed in the 90s, in 2000 it was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since then, it has been applied in 10 million medical procedures, primarily in complicated laparoscopic surgeries, especially in the area of the urinary tract that is hard to access. Over 5,500 da Vinci systems have been sold worldwide. The cost of one such surgical system is estimated at USD 2 million. Some other companies offering similar solutions include Intuitive Surgical, Stryker, and Smith & Nephew (knee joint replacement systems).

Administrative robots. A curiosity rather than an employee

Robots working at reception desks in hospitals quickly captured the headlines. They welcome patients, explain how to find a ward, and answer visitors' questions. The most recognizable one is Pepper – a universal robot with large eyes and a white body that can be programmed for any purpose, for example, to provide conference services. However, its use in hospitals is marginal. It is a gadget that arouses curiosity rather than a device that takes over activities related to patient registration and service. 27,000 Pepper robots were produced by 2021. However, their commercial application proved to be such a challenge that SoftBank, its manufacturer, has recently stopped production.

Robots for entertainment purposes. Communication and fun

In hospitals, robots make children laugh and play with them. The goal is, for example, to reduce the fear of treatments. Zora is a robot that can dance and answer simple questions, similarly to Robin. Paro is a robotic seal that reacts to the touch like a real animal, which is how it wins patients over. It is successfully used mostly in nursing homes for Alzheimer's patients. This use of robots has a future: The feeling of loneliness and isolation is a major challenge, especially for patients in long-term care homes. Robots are available 24 hours a day, do not get tired, and are at the patient's disposal whenever they need. Recently, a team of researchers at the University of Tsukuba in Japan has developed a soft robot to reduce patients' stress and fear when undergoing painful or uncomfortable medical procedures.

Nursing robots. Taking over simple tasks

Moxy is the first nursing robot. It has a long arm and can prepare a room for a new patient by assembling the necessary supplies and bringing them from the warehouse. 15 robots of this type are currently working in the US, and it is estimated that they will be accompanied by 60 more by the end of the year. This robot is far from having the manual skills of a human, so even simple tasks, such as changing the sheets, are a challenge. However, robots like Moxy will be a must because the number of nurses and doctors will gradually decrease. Another example is PIO, a robot that is being developed in the Myongji hospital in Gyeonggi province, South Korea. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), this caregiving robot helps people with dementia. PIO resembles a parrot and its task is to build emotional attachment and stimulate positive emotions in patients in the early stages of dementia. It has a camera that recognizes its user's face and facial expressions and can express emotions with its eyes and body movements. PIO can also help relieve depression and improve its users' emotional stability and cognitive abilities. The first tests of this technology were carried out at the beginning of this year and proved to be successful, while the patients' reactions were very positive. South Korea often uses caregiving robots. For example, it already uses robots that help communicate with lonely residents and people with mental health issues. It is a response to problems such as a rapidly aging population.