Most cancer drugs course through the human body, instead of just targeting a tumor. But what if we could employ micro-robots (microbots) to perform the same task with pinpoint precision? In today’s context this could be possible, with robots omnipresent in every walk of life—transforming industrial functions, automation, space research, and healthcare.
With the booming robotics industry touted to hit $66.4 billion by 2025, the logistic systems and medical robots marketplaces will grow at a considerable rate, according to projections from The World Robotics 2013- Service Robots. The reasons for this become evident when we consider that robots employed in pharmaceutical management work under conditions hazardous to humans and those in medical assistance undertake ‘superhuman’ two shifts daily, throughout the week. No wonder, the Japan Robotic Association estimates that medical care will be one of the largest markets for robots by 2025.
Surgery robots, companion robots and nursing robots are some game-changers in the medical arena today. In fact, robotics could play a role at the diagnosis stage itself, with techniques, such as capsule endoscopy—a pioneering non-invasive method that uses a microbot to record images of the digestive tract. Subsequently, microbots that wade through the veins, arteries, blood stream and organs can facilitate surgeries and drug therapy.
Robotics could revolutionize the assistance that healthcare professionals offer patients with physical disability. The path breaking 'Iron Man' suit developed by NASA acts as a robot that humans wear over their bodies and could enable paraplegics to walk. The battery-powered wearable Bionic Leg, used mainly for stroke rehabilitation, could support persons with mobility impairment. Argus II, a bionic eye, has come to the rescue of patients with retinitis pigmentosa—a rare genetic vision disorder.
There are others way in which robotics is facilitating medical procedure. For instance, tiny, flexible medical sensors on invasive devices are improving the efficiency of angiography and robots are removing brain hemorrhages. As improving the results of medical procedures and optimizing costs become increasingly pertinent, industry experts believe that robotics might be the panacea to the projected shortage of medical professionals over the next two decades.
Yet, there are several stumbling blocks to the large-scale adoption of robotic equipment by medical facilities. A major factor is affordability, or the lack of it. After all, every hospital can’t afford a robot that is priced over $1 million. Also, most surgery robots are too large for an operating room.
There is also the risk factor, with many medical procedures being both highly complicated and critical. In such cases, there is no room for error. While robots do excel in repetitive work, they can’t be programmed to deal with exigencies efficiently.
So, will robotics be the next big thing in healthcare industry? Do let us know by posting your comments in the section below.