Robots Are Helping Health Care

Written by Jennifer Clark
Posted June 24, 2020

A lot has changed because of the coronavirus — especially the health care industry. 

Practicing social distancing and sanitization is crucial to prevent the spread of COVID-19. So health care workers are at a much bigger risk for contracting the virus because they are on the frontlines. If there is one thing we can’t compromise, it’s the health of the people ensuring COVID-19 patients receive the best possible care while also preventing the spread of the virus to other patients. 

Health care robots are being used in these circumstances. With the rise of the coronavirus, they've become a reality rather than just some idea of the “future.” According to a report by Zion Market Research, by 2025, global medical robot expenditures are expected to increase by approximately 20% to reach $24.6 billion. That number could increase even more as more health care organizations realize the importance of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and begin using technologies that reduce exposure.

Autonomous robots could disinfect hospital rooms with ultraviolet light; transfer specimen samples; and deliver food, medicine, and supplies. Having a robot available to communicate with patients, perform a visual inspection, and observe a patient’s room as well as the monitors that they are hooked up to would be very helpful to hospital workers. 

Using robotics during a pandemic would reduce person-to-person contact and lessen the chances of health care workers getting sick. It would also reduce the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies, ensuring they remain well stocked.

At the Adventist Health White Memorial in Los Angeles, health care professionals are using seven LightStrike robots from Xenex Disinfection Services to decontaminate rooms after patients leave. These robots are able to deploy multiple wavelengths of germ-killing UV rays, which sanitize an area in as little as 10 to 15 minutes without human contact. The robots also wirelessly send confirmation that an area is clean to a secure, cloud-based portal.

Mara Byrant, an operations executive at Adventist Health, said:

Our ER is very busy with a lot of admissions, so being able to turn our beds over quickly when someone leaves is important to us. The robot definitely helps make that happen.

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The future of medicine and health care could be very different because of robots. Telemedicine has become popular and most health care insurers include telemedicine in their health care plans. This brings a health care professional to you either through your phone or computer, giving you access to professionals if you aren't able to leave the house.

With robots, there’s the idea of telenursing — a human nurse being able to remotely control a robot to perform most patient care. The robot would be the nurse’s eyes, ears, and body. This would be helpful when people need to practice social distancing or wear PPE. A robot nurse could go in and take vitals so the nurse can stay away from the patient, reducing infection rates among doctors and nurses. Making telenursing a reality would involve robotic manipulation, teleconferencing, augmented reality, health sensors, and low-latency communication networks which are all technologies that are maturing every day. 

These types of robots are being called telepresence robots, and companies like VGo Communications, Beam Robotics, and Double Robotics have already proven helpful to health care workers during COVID-19.

Until next time, 

Jennifer Clark
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