Robots are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in everyday life. They vacuum homes, drive cars, teach your children math, and answer burning questions in an instant. They are used on production lines, to inventory retail stock, and to stroll store aisles, looking for potential hazards.
Robots are also changing the face of healthcare. Everything from major surgeries to minor procedures is being aided by robotic technology. Although robots aren’t left strictly to their own devices, they offer tremendous advantages to surgeons and patients alike.
Whether you’re considering hair transplant surgery, need your gallbladder removed, or require a mitral valve repair, robots may be involved. Here are four ways they’re changing surgical operations in the 21st century.
1. Robots Can Lower Costs
As you can imagine, hospitals, clinics, and surgical centers make significant investments in robotic technology. Moreover, those investments are ongoing. They must keep pace with maintenance demands, software upgrades, and other improvements.
Such investments can make the cost of some robot-assisted and laparoscopic procedures pricier than traditional ones. However, patients save costs with shorter recovery times and higher surgical success rates. Those, too, have value.
For example, in the case of hair restoration, the overall hair transplant can potentially be reduced because outcomes are more successful. Robotics reduce the number of damaged follicle bulbs because they more accurately identify hair thickness and directional growth. That means more of the grafts the surgeon removes from donor areas will thrive in the recipient areas. This, in turn, reduces the need for follow-up procedures.
When comparing the cost of laparoscopic and robotic-assisted procedures against traditional ones, look beyond the initial price. Indicators such as success rates, reduced post-procedure restrictions, and recovery may more than make up the difference.
2. Robotics Improve Precision and Control
The characteristics of robots used in healthcare are what make them gamechangers. Miniaturization, artificial intelligence (AI), and computing power and performance provide unmatched potential for surgical precision and control.
Da Vinci surgical systems, for example, began revolutionizing minimally invasive procedures nearly 25 years ago. These moved surgeons from hovering over the patient with trays of large instruments. Now, they’re positioned a few feet away, operating miniaturized devices from a console. And they did so with the ability to see into and maneuver within tiny spaces inside the body.
Think about how you can use your fingers to increase the size of a photo or map on your smartphone. The premise is similar. Surgeons can use robots to work in precise locations while seeing what they’re doing from every angle, magnified exponentially.
Whether it’s accurately extracting then implanting a tiny graft of hair or placing mesh to repair a hernia, robotics improve the process. By increasing precision and control, they reduce the potential for human error and give rise to better patient outcomes.
3. Robotics Expedite and Improve Diagnoses
Robots that employ AI are making diagnoses of certain diseases, like cancer, faster and more accurately. The capability of AI to process massive amounts of data and to do so rapidly is altering medicine. And it’s doing it without direct physician intervention.
That’s the beauty and the beast of AI. It culls through billions of bits of information and identifies, for example, a cancerous mass in its earliest stages. Of course, the key to success in cancer treatment is early intervention.
But AI can also sound the alarm early on routine diagnostic issues. It performs predictive analyses that can give a patient and provider a heads-up on a potentially serious condition. Perhaps it will detect the presence of a heart murmur long before surgery to correct it becomes necessary.
Avoiding the emergency room and the operating room can save billions of dollars in healthcare costs. Healthcare providers who use AI for routine patient visits are the first line of defense. Not only can AI robots save time and money, but they can save lives as well.
4. Robots Decrease Risk of Complications
No surgery is completely without risk. There are all sorts of opportunities before, during, and after a procedure for complications to arise. Infections, allergic reactions, bleeding, and long recovery periods all pose potential perils.
Robots make laparoscopic procedures possible. Their less invasive nature inherently reduces exposure to negative outcomes. Surgery may be performed under local or regional anesthesia rather than full anesthesia. Large incisions and sutures are replaced by tiny ones. Blood loss is minimal.
Consider heart surgeries that normally require opening the chest in the operating room. Robotic-assisted heart procedures are often performed without opening the chest. Instead, the surgeon uses miniature cameras and instruments to operate through a small incision.
If patients can avoid the conditions of traditional surgery that increase the risk of serious complications, it’s one less concern. In the hands of a skilled surgeon, the right instruments can be life changing.
The Future Is Now
For a long time, robots seemed to be objects of the future, not the present. Slowly, they have begun to permeate the lives of most people. In fact, it would be difficult for many to give up the robotic presence in their lives.
Healthcare has always been a fertile frontier for innovation. The emergence of robots, equipped with AI and progressively faster computing capabilities, and wrapped in increasingly smaller boxes, isn’t surprising. And many surgical procedures, from minor to major, cosmetic to lifesaving, are experiencing the advantageous imprint of robots. The future has arrived.