Lost in Space television shows of the 1960’s have become reality as an industry that prides itself on the “human touch” goes Robo.
Not only has technology encroached into all aspects of healthcare, Robots are in the homes of independent elderly rural residents. Healthcare robots function as social companions who remind patients of medication schedules, help them to remain independent, and even play games with them. Several residents mention developing emotional attachment to these techno attendants (Robots help Rural Elderly).
In a hospital nearby, Robotic Tugs have been seen rolling through the corridors transporting pounds of linens, multitudes of meals, thousands of medications, and tons of trash. This robotic transport knows how to navigate via elevators, open doors, and avoid an active fire alarm area and collisions. It also politely warns you if it’s about to back up and thanks you after you have unloaded its delivery. In exchange for saving staff precious time and hundreds of miles every month, some Tugs have earned endearing names from human counterparts (Robotic Tugs). Elsewhere in a hospital, comforting Robear Robot enters a patient room to gently lift and transport a patient safely from the bed to a chair (Robear).
Doctors also can make remote visits to hospitalized patients. Mobile Robo-Docs can be found roaming about Intensive Care Units and interact with patients via a two way screen, review medical records and remotely exam a patient with the assistance of on nurse at the patient bedside (Mobile Doctor Robots).
Robots are not new in the surgical suite. Here they can bring superhuman precision and repeatability to very exacting procedures. However, some have now specialized to do hair restoration while other Robots are being used in rehabilitation and coupled with an immersive 3-D video gaming experience. Robotic arms then become an engaging experience and exercise for someone recovering from a stroke (Robots and Healthcare).
In the meantime, out the window and able to leap over tall buildings, unmanned aerial vehicles (AKA drones) are heroically delivering medical supplies to disaster scenes and remote areas (Drones).
And the adventure continues as a diagnostic know-it-all mastermind in healthcare emerges as some bloke named Watson who lives in the land of IBM (What is Watson?).
In some regards it seems as if the modern B-9 and Robby the Robot of old television shows have been designed to be the collective best of us. Robots can be there when we cannot. They don’t get tired, hungry, distracted, or suffer from back pain. They do what they are instructed to do and do it well without complaint. They can be respectful, helpful, and skilled. All of which leaves us to do what we do best – care for and about one another.
So what has not changed in healthcare since the days of Lost in Space in the 1960’s? Band-Aids, tongue depressors, and compassion. They require the application of the “human touch.” And hopefully always will.