The global market for healthcare robots is estimated to increase by US$11.4 billion by 2020
Everyday technology is driving innovation in the healthcare sector. From inducing artificial intelligence into the diagnosis and detection of diseases to implementing machine learning algorithm for faster drug discovery, healthcare infrastructure is moving parallel to technological innovation. Robotics has become the heavily explored technology by healthcare professionals and MedTech executives to deliver the desired outcomes. Since, the evolution of the first robotic surgeon ‘da Vinci’ that performs general surgery, the global healthcare system is amplifying techniques where robotics can be deployed. Due to its accuracy and precision in performing surgical procedures, it has been favored over the conventional laparoscopic surgeries. Additionally, robotic surgeries explore the area and manoeuvre minute arteries and veins which is not possible to do in traditional surgeries. Henceforth, the demand for robotic surgeries has expedited over the years. For example, the utilization of robotics in performing inguinal hernia repair has surged over 38.1% from 2012 to 2018. As per a report by PwC, the global robot market including ‘care-bots’ could reach US$17.4 billion by 2020. Moreover, the market for healthcare robots is estimated to increase by US$11.4 billion by 2020. According to IndustryARC, surgical robots contribute as the largest component for medical robotics market.
Japan is listed as the top country heavily deploying robotics in the healthcare infrastructure. A report by PwC estimates the Japanese ‘care-bot’ market to grow from US$155 million in 2015 to US$3.8 billion by 2035.
Due to the success rate of robotic surgeries, many medtech enterprises and renowned healthcare organizations are exploring the possibility to induce robotic in other healthcare procedures. Medtech companies like Johnson and Johnson, Medtronic and Stryker, and Big techs like Apple and IBM have already entered the competitive race of robotic infrastructure in healthcare innovation. Moreover, the utilization of robotics is exceeded beyond the scope of surgical procedures. In medtech industry, robotics is heavily deployed to manufacture medical tools which are precise and accurate in carrying out pre-clinical procedures, labs, performing repetitive tasks, rehabilitation and aiding in patients’ care having long-term conditions. For example, RoBear is a robot which performs the task of lifting and moving the patients in and out of bed, in a wheelchair and prevents bedsores in patients who are advised for long term bed rest.
Additionally, there are many robots which aid the healthcare system. For example, KASPAR is a child humanoid robot that aids teachers and parents to support patients with autism. Giraff is another mobile communication robot that assists chronically ill-patients in dining. Toyota has created robots which aid immobilized patients to walk. Veebot is another robot that draws blood safely than a human.
Companies investing in Healthcare robots
Johnson and Johnson- This medtech organization has recently acquired Auris for innovations in bronchoscopic surgery. The company is also creating a robot that can perform orthopaedic surgical procedures. It is also working with Verb Surgical and Alphabet Inc to create a general robot with advanced visualization, machine learning, data analytics and connectivity.
MZOR- The Company is developing a robotic surgical guidance system known as Mazon Robotics Renaissance to transform free-hand spine surgery into the robotic guided procedure.
Titan Medical- The company is developing a robotic system known as Single Port Orifice Robotic Technology (SPORT) with 3D vision and instrument control technology which aids in minimally invasive procedures for general, abdominal, gynecologic and urologic surgeries.
Hensen Medical- The company is investing to develop a robotic system known as the Magellan Robotic System that aids in controlling, monitoring, manipulating and positioning the catheter in the patients.
Challenges for Healthcare infrastructure
While medical robots are heavily researched and developed, certain challenges are hindering the medtech and healthcare sector to fully utilize these robots.
1. Cost-effectiveness: Apart from the dearth of highly skilled individuals, lack of funds is listed amongst the biggest challenge for healthcare and medTech infrastructure, to fully utilize the benefits of robotics. Most hospitals are seeking cost-effectiveness. As the cost of this new-edge technology is significantly high, medium and low-budgeted healthcare institutes covet from deploying robotics in operations.
2. Data sharing- Data sharing is another concern which paralyses the scope of robotics in healthcare infrastructure. A PwC report points out that more than 30 trillion gigabytes of unexplored medical data is generated every year. This data is in the form of published articles, research, and patient’s demographic data. However, the utilization of this data is limited, due to the strict data regularization policies in many institutes.
3. Highly skilled Individuals- Like mentioned earlier, healthcare infrastructure is plagued with the challenge to have sufficient professionals in working. The COVID 19 pandemic has revealed this bitter reality to the world. Though robotics is utilized in medical surgeries and pre-clinical procedures, the dearth of medical professionals is significantly impacting the utilization of technologically-advanced resources.
Future of Robotics in Healthcare Institutes
Undoubtedly, the scope of healthcare in medical institutes is positive. But the global healthcare systems must address the challenges hindering the deployment and utilization of robotics in medical procedures. Creating awareness about these procedures amongst healthcare professionals and patients will aid in seeking maximum benefits from this new-edge technology.