From Sci-Fi to Reality: How Robotics is Revolutionizing Healthcare

The utilization of robotics in the medical field is rapidly expanding, revolutionizing the way surgical and other medical procedures are performed. Presently, robotics is aiding physicians and surgeons with a broad spectrum of activities, ranging from intricate procedures to remote surgeries, due to advancements in technology. Furthermore, the integration of robotics has enhanced patient outcomes by reducing the likelihood of human error and facilitating more precise and effective procedures.

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robots in medicine

Illustration: Milica Mijajlovic

The human desire to surpass our natural abilities has driven much of our technological development. This desire has also led to the creation and evolution of robotics, which initially served to automate processes in manufacturing during the 1960s. Today, industrial robots provide assistance and protection to human workers in various fields. Robots are utilized for processes that require added strength and precision, such as handling, cutting, welding, and spraying chemicals that could be harmful to humans. 

In the past six decades, robots have evolved, gradually obtaining a specialized purpose. Nowadays, robots have a significant role in agriculture, transportation, law enforcement, military, and household goods. However, the considerable impact robots have on humanity is in the medical field, where they assist in treating patients. 

Creating new opportunities 

For many years, medicine has been a leader in technological advancements, and the inclusion of robotics is a prime example of this. A range of new technologies such as surgical robots and exoskeletons for rehabilitation are changing the way we approach healthcare, creating new opportunities for patient care and treatment.  

Robotic technology has enabled physicians and surgeons to perform intricate procedures with increased accuracy and precision, leading to fewer complications and less discomfort for patients. Only a few decades ago, minimally invasive surgeries such as gallbladder removal and coronary artery bypass were much more complicated. In addition, post operative recovery was prolonged, taking months to fully recover.  

Today, medical professionals are utilizing robots to not only perform surgical procedures but also to deliver enhanced and comprehensive care to their patients. Namely, the medical treatment process can be prolonged and emotionally draining, specifically when healthcare providers are short-staffed. The use of medical robots can mitigate these shortcomings and bring about a transformation in the healing process, benefiting both patients and caregivers.  

Leaving research laboratories 

Initially, robots were restricted to research laboratories. There, they were employed to automate manual and repetitive tasks that were high in volume. This allowed scientists and technicians to concentrate on more strategic assignments leading to faster discoveries and innovations.  

Nowadays, the utilization of robotics and automation has gone beyond research laboratories. Multiple areas have benefited from more effective workflows and risk reduction that robots enable. For instance, robots are able to independently clean and prepare patient rooms, reducing contact in potentially hazardous infectious disease wards. Next, robots that are powered by AI-enabled medicine identifier software save time typically wasted on determining, matching and distributing medications to inpatients.   

With the advancement of technology, robots will be gaining autonomy, up to the point when they become able to perform specific tasks completely on their own. Ultimately, healthcare staff will be able to dedicate themselves and their time to providing direct patient care.  

Benefits of robotics in healthcare 

As already mentioned, benefits that robots can accrue will be reflected in various fields in healthcare. Possibly the most advantageous and constructive advancements will be reflected in safer environment, efficient processes in clinical, and high-level patient care.  

At hospitals, where there is a possibility of disease exposure, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are employed to carry supplies and linens. This is of colossal importance to healthcare staff as it will help keep their health safe. Hospital acquired infections (HAIs) can be reduced by deploying cleaning and disinfection robots which are already being used by hundreds of healthcare facilities. Social robots, a sort of ARMs, assist with relocating beds or patients, easing the physical burden on healthcare professionals. 

AMRs are also able to make ordinary activities simpler, decrease physical demands from human staff, and guarantee more consistent procedures. Furthermore, these robots can assist overcome personnel shortages and problems. By monitoring inventories and making prompt purchases, they ensure supplies, equipment, and medications are available when and where they are required. Disinfection and cleaning AMRs allow for quick disinfection and sanitizing of rooms, thus promptly preparing them for patients. This enables hospital staff to concentrate on patient-centric and value-driven work. 

Medical robots are not only implemented in minimally invasive surgeries. They also support intelligent rehab, frequent and individualized monitoring for patients with chronic diseases, and social interaction for elderly patients. Likewise, the reduction of workloads enables better interaction and compassion between the staff and patients. In the long run, this can improve patients’ wellbeing. 

Types of medical robots 

The use of robotics in healthcare and medicine has advanced significantly since it was first introduced in the operating theatres over 30 years ago. Currently, robots are assisting in a range of medical fields. Those are: 

  • Sanitation robots, 
  • Nursing robots, 
  • Exoskeletons, 
  • Social robots, 
  • Surgical robots 
  • AI doctors. 

Sanitation robots 

Maintaining sanitary conditions has always been of utmost importance in healthcare facilities. Consistent and high-quality disinfection and sanitization are essential for the proper healing process. Namely, a patient’s life can be threatened if they contract a virus or bacteria in hospital while recovering from a surgical procedure. Hence, deep cleaning and sanitization are absolutely necessary.  

These tasks might be time-consuming for medical staff; however, they are not so for sanitation robots. Being straightforward, monotonous, and requiring minimal skills, these duties are perfectly carried out by robots. Due to their capacity to destroy germs and viruses abiding on various surfaces, UV disinfection robots have become irreplaceable in sanitizing healthcare centers. The robots navigate the facilities on their own, disinfecting surfaces by shining UV rays over them. 

Nursing robots 

The outbreak of the corona virus in 2020 brought to light the vulnerabilities of the healthcare systems across the globe. Almost all countries have been struggling with the shortage of nursing staff. What’s even worse, the shortage projections are only going to aggravate. Despite their hard work, there is not enough nurses to satisfy the needs of all patients. This is where the nursing robots kick in, being in the perfect position to fill this gap. 

Nurses’ duties include numerous tasks during a single day, some of which being monitoring vital signs and drawing blood. Despite the significance of these tasks, their volume can be both physically and emotionally draining for nurses. Luckily, robots are capable of carrying out these tasks today.  

nurse robot

Source: The Daily Beast

A venipuncture robot, for instance, is able to create a 3D image of a patient’s arm, showing a nurse where exactly the patient’s vein is. This considerably facilitates and speeds up the process of taking blood. Such a process of drawing blood enhances the patient experience as well, since many people find needles unpleasant and even terrifying. 

In addition, nursing robots are capable of monitoring patients’ vital signs autonomously, as well as assist with lifting and relocating patients. This is of tremendous significance for nurses, as they can devote their time to patients, providing better care. 


Though not typical robots, exoskeletons are of great significance in rehabilitation and physical therapy. Robotic exoskeletons are an external set of muscles and bones, implementing robotics to train the body or body parts to move properly again. They are employed in rehabilitation processes to boost the overall mobility of a patient, back the recovery of a single joint or make a limb stronger.   

These medical robots help patients recovering from a stroke or spinal injury regain their mobility. Additionally, they can suppress movement as well. To illustrate, an exoskeleton used to suppress tremors may carry out movements that are opposite to a patient’s involuntary shaking. 

Not only do exoskeletons help patients physically, but they can be emotionally transformative. Being physically capable to move around after a stroke or serious injury has turned out to be extremely beneficial for the healing process, as it leads to faster recovery and stress reduction.  

Social robots 

Emotional support is critical during the recovery processes. Furthermore, for the sick or disabled, building an interaction with healthcare staff may make a world of difference. As a result, they may recover faster, with their wellbeing and life quality significantly improving. In line with this, social interaction can be of great importance for the elderly, who may be prone to dementia and other severe medical conditions.  

Unfortunately, medical staff is typically stretched to their limits, so they rarely have tome to hang out with their patients. Luckily, social robots have proved to be exquisite companions, providing endless engagement, emotional support, and mental stimulation to those who need them most.  

Surgical robots 

Proficient and experienced surgeons commonly employ surgical robots to execute complex surgeries requiring highest accuracy and precision. Due to their ability to create extremely small incisions, surgical robots frequently help reduce the invasiveness of surgery.  

Robotic surgery has several advantages over traditional surgery. Robots provide consistent and constant intraoperative support for doctors and surgical teams. For instance, robots are able to hold instruments and implant components absolutely motionless and on target during the implantation of screws for decompression spine surgery. 

Besides enabling greater precision, the fixed position of instruments frees up surgical teams’ hands during the operation. Owing to their accuracy, surgical robots reduce the time necessary for performing of the procedure. Last but not least, they can reduce the mental burden surgeons may experience, enabling them to complete the operation more quickly. Faster surgeries are beneficial not only for the hospital and surgeons but also for patients, as they won’t be long under anesthesia.   

AI doctors 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is not necessarily about chatbots only. It is capable of performing much more complicated tasks such as assisting doctors to establish diagnoses, write prescriptions and develop drugs, and treat patients remotely, thus boosting efficiency of a hospital.  

ai doctor

Source: BSI

Furthermore, AI algorithms are assisting physicians in more accurate and earlier disease diagnosis. An AI is even capable of developing a completely unique and tailored treatment plan that is painstakingly fitted to the individual demands of a patient.  

As a consequence, AI doctors allow their human counterparts to work faster, treat more patients, and reach better decisions. They can determine and implement treatment plans faster, improving a patient’s prognosis. Plus, repetitive tasks are automated, allowing doctors to concentrate on saving lives. 

The future of medical robotics 

Medical robots facilitate the healing process, making it faster for both patients and caregivers. Besides, they don’t only compensate for shortages in staff but they also alleviate stress medical staff is constantly exposed to. Regarding patients, robots can help them improve their mobility and offer personalized care and companionship. 

Robotics is an industry that is ever-evolving. Medical robots are just starting out, and new discoveries are yet to come. They are undoubtedly bound to further transform healthcare by enabling intuitive healing based on cutting-edge technology. The robots’ application in surgery and other areas is expanding quickly. One example of how technology is continuing to push the limits of healthcare is the creation of a soft robotic arm that can 3D bioprint inside a human’s body.  

One day, scientists might be able to develop microbots – microscopic robots that could perform surgery without cutting open a patient. Instead, they could do it from inside a body. Due to their tiny dimensions, they won’t be damaging tissue as is the case with traditional procedures.  

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