Do robots have a place in the medical sector?
The Chinese medical robot market is a young one but it has been growing steadily following the Chinese government’s push in 2018 to encourage research on the clinical applications of robotics technology. The push came with increased funding levels for research and development, and advances in engineering sectors such as artificial intelligence (AI), medical imaging and precision mechatronics.
From service robots to precision robots conducting complex surgeries, we explore the various clinical utilisations of robots in the following examples:
The popularity of service robots surged during the Covid-19 outbreak as it minimized contact between people and prevented the spread of the contagious virus. Fitted with cameras, these service robots are able to perform various tasks, ranging from taking ultrasounds, conducting Covid-19 swab tests to using a stethoscope. This allowed for doctors and nurses to be separated from the patients, ensuring the safety of the medical personnels.
Furthermore, service robots can be commonly found in hospitals or public areas, helping to disinfect commonly touched areas, take people’s temperatures or deliver food to patients. This minimized the workload of the medical staff, allowing them to focus on more important tasks. In Wuhan, China, there exists a trial field hospital staffed by robots. Patients' temperatures are screened automatically when entering the hospital and staff were given alerts if patients were feverish. Additionally, the patients wore smart bracelets and rings which synced with CloudMinds’ AI platform, allowing their vital signals to be constantly monitored remotely. The robots also entertained patients by dancing.
Therefore, with the outbreak of Covid-19, people were made more receptive to the deployment of robotic technology.
Robots possess wide applications in the medical sector, from nursing, aiding in physical medical rehabilitation to performing complex and minimally invasive surgeries. Medical robots are set to become a key technology in helping care for Chinese citizens in the future and help in easing the workload of skilled clinical staff given its shortage. Furthermore, surgical robots have much higher precision that humans, this allows for robots to perform minimally invasive surgery and protect the
small lymphatic vessels, veins and nerves.
In China, JD Health, is a large market player in the telemedicine sector and has seen the number of monthly consultations on its online health platform grow tenfold since the onset of Covid-19. Telemedicine is key in helping scale healthcare provision service to meet the high demand from patients due to Covid-19. Using telemedicine, each doctor is able to take care of more patients by providing patient care remotely through video consultations.
However, developing a robot which meets the needs of medical personnels while ensuring it remains affordable and is able to satisfy government regulations is a difficult task. Therefore, foreign robotics companies seeking to enter the Chinese robotics market should focus on meeting these 3 key requirements.
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