Modern tech has revolutionized the healthcare industry. When patients can’t be treated at the hospital, new technologies enable patients to receive quality care from the comfort of their homes.
By Sam Bowman
But while the benefits of telehealth were once limited to virtual checkups and prescription deliveries, modern healthtech is advanced enough to completely replace several services offered by primary care providers, hospitals, and specialists.
Thanks to modern robotics — and the artificial intelligence that supports its functionality — care is more convenient, accurate, and affordable than ever. Let’s explore some of the new technology that brings doctors to patients’ homes, and how providers and patients alike can benefit from robots in the future of healthcare.
Boosting Access to Care With Healthtech
The need for increased healthcare accessibility is always a pressing need. Modern healthcare technology has already made it possible for patients to get access to care that’s not locally available, but with the rise of more robots and AI, remote medical support is more widely applicable than ever before.
For example, nursing robots can now perform advanced tasks like drawing blood with greater accuracy by using scans. In addition, there’s no need for rural patients to travel to specialists just for a brief checkup. Eventually, advancements in the precision of surgical robots may even allow emergency care to occur in the home with supervision.
Robotic exoskeletons are a particularly exciting development right now. When healthcare providers are far away, this technology — which supports mobility — allows patients to get around safely in their homes, whether they want to go to the restroom or exercise. This improves independence (and therefore, quality of life) for many long-term patients. For physical therapy patients, exoskeletons could provide continued treatment without regular visits, which can be demanding for those in rural areas.
Offering Mental Health Support Around the Clock
While the robots in healthcare largely support physical health, many innovators are developing new tools to support mental wellness, too. For example, PARO — a therapeutic robot that looks and sounds like a baby harp seal — can reduce patient stress and increase socialization. When implemented in home-based care or assisted living facilities, robots like PARO reduce the challenges and risks associated with real-life therapy animals, all while providing comfort to patients in times of need.
Robots and AI technologies can also detect physiological signs of mental health crises, like changes in heart rate for people who are about to have a panic attack or changes in tone of voice for people with worsening depression. While they won’t replace therapists any time soon, they can be key tools for healthcare practices and home-based nurses that can’t otherwise monitor patients 24/7.
Using Robots To Cut Costs and Boost Efficiency
Robots can be incredibly cost-effective for healthcare providers. When used for healthcare in the home, they eliminate the need for costly nursing labor in menial tasks (like cleaning medical supplies). Medical professionals can offer more attentive care or treat more patients in less time.
AI technology, whether integrated into a robot or on a computer, can also analyze large amounts of patient data faster than any human. This empowers both telehealth and home-based care providers to quickly provide medical answers — like skin care diagnoses and medical condition updates — as well as cost-effective treatment plans. As a result, medical practices may be able to reduce the burden of healthcare costs for patients. Treatment costs alone can decrease by 50% with the support of AI.
Digitization Comes With Risks — But They Can Be Mitigated
The implementation of robotics, AI, and other healthcare technologies isn’t without risk. Digital tools that are connected to the internet can be exposed to cybercrime. For example, while the movement to the cloud has increased transparency by making medical records more accessible, it also increases the risk of sensitive information being stolen. If home WiFi isn’t secure, it can also lead to in-home nursing robots being hacked and used in nefarious ways.
Providers can help patients decrease the risks of modern medical technologies — and artificial intelligence can fittingly be a tool to fight these risks. AI can automatically detect cyberattacks and contribute to faster responses to potential breaches.
Healthcare technologies, when implemented safely, can offer significantly more rewards than risks for home care providers and patients.
The Future of Healthcare Is Here
Healthcare technologies are more advanced than ever, and the rising introduction of robots in the medical field is something to celebrate. Robots and AI are making it possible for providers to offer accurate physical care — like symptom monitoring and blood draws — and supportive mental health care alike from afar. New solutions alleviate the costs and travel time needed for quality healthcare to occur for both patients and providers.
While digitized healthcare always comes with some risks — especially that of cybercrime — its benefits far outweigh the potential downsides, which can be mitigated with the right steps.