Robotics: Ready Eyes and Hands for Human Progress

Robotics: Ready Eyes and Hands for Human Progress

Peter Schardt, CTO, Siemens Healthineers
Veröffentlicht: 30. März 2021, Linkedin

Robotic technologies are becoming an important asset for future healthcare. Today, robotic systems are increasingly assisting physicians and nurses with complex procedures and contributing to better treatments. This is just the beginning: Over the next ten years, robots will become even more integrated into clinical routines.

The year 2021 has already been shaped by two major scientific achievements. The first is the development and deployment of effective vaccines against COVID-19 – vaccines that use a breakthrough approach that will revolutionize the field of immunization.

The second is literally a world apart. In February, we watched in wonder as the Mars rover Perseverance executed an astonishingly complex landing on that distant planet without human intervention. More than 130 million miles from Earth, Perseverance will explore the surface of Mars and even collect and analyze core samples, all controlled by high-precision robotic devices.

What do these two accomplishments have in common? A lot, I believe, especially as we assess the strengths and limitations of our response to the global pandemic. The vaccines are a triumph. But during the past year, COVID-19 severely disrupted medical care. Elective surgeries were canceled. Potentially life-saving screening tests were postponed. We’re only beginning to measure the consequences of this disruption. This much is clear now: The wider use of robotics in healthcare will help maintain continuity of care and protect against transmission within healthcare settings when the next pandemic threat comes along.

At the basic level, robots can be used to take vital signs and to transport medications or lab specimens without risk of infection. At a far more sophisticated level, robotic devices are already enabling surgeons to operate remotely without being in direct contact with patients. For example, they perform minimally invasive interventions in cardiology and neurology.

The benefits of robotics go beyond preparing us for future pandemics. Hospital-based infections were a growing problem – even before COVID-19.

 

Robots that help reduce or avoid physical contact will help minimize the risk for patients as well as healthcare professionals. Another important advantage in that regard: The use of robots could also help reduce radiation exposure to healthcare workers.

Across the care continuum, robots will enable us to achieve a greater level of standardization in care delivery, as well as consistent quality and outcomes. Robots can be programmed based on the techniques and best-practices of physicians and clinics where a high volume of a given procedure is performed.

Experts are in short supply in healthcare, and trends show that staff shortages will be one of the biggest challenges for health systems in the years ahead. Robots will be a part of the solution. Far too many patients don’t get the care they need in time. In the coming years, robotic devices that help physicians perform life-saving diagnostic and interventional procedures will be deployed more and more widely. They could help ensure that even in small rural hospitals, patients receive the best care we can offer.

Innovation is in our DNA. As a leading global medical technology company Siemens Healthineers is shaping the digital transformation of healthcare.

 

We are researching and developing robotic systems and their core technologies: artificial intelligence, automation, and sensing. We’re focusing on innovative solutions for cardiology, neurology, oncology, and infectious diseases.

Automated and interconnected devices, powered by artificial intelligence and sensing systems, are an important key to optimizing the care continuum and improving clinical outcomes. In the next ten years, robotic systems and imaging devices will be increasingly integrated. I believe that, eventually, robotic systems guided by their perception capabilities will have their own digital twins which will talk to patients’ digital health twins. By using imaging and other data to simulate interventions before actual procedures are performed, we will be able to make therapies much more precise.

I’m very proud of our commitment to research and development. Of course, future medicine will still have – and rely on – people taking care of people. I don’t believe intelligent machines will replace humans. However, these devices will have an important impact in medicine, augmenting the senses and capabilities of humans. Image-guided robotic systems will be able to assist and even collaborate inside and outside the operating room – and eventually inside and outside the hospital. Think of it this way: They are augmenting the eyes and hands of physicians and nurses and helping them make treatments even more precise and efficient. Thanks to innovative robotics, distance will no longer hinder people from having access to expert care. However, we will need to ensure that the necessary, secure digital infrastructure is in place.

If you want to see more and have a glimpse of that future, click here.