Full-time jobs in medicine: it's not fiction, it's fact

Full-time jobs in medicine: it's not fiction, it's fact

Can a robot replace a doctor, nurse or physiotherapist? A few decades ago, no one would have even thought that robots straight from science fiction movies would appear in the real world and be used in medicine. Innovative devices that facilitate the work of doctors of many specialties and medical staff are increasingly present in Polish hospitals.

Medical robotics is a relatively young but very dynamically developing field of science. Thanks to the combination of mechanics, cybernetics and computer science, robotic systems have been created that support diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation.

The robot does not operate, the surgeon operates thanks to the device

Da Vinci is the world's most famous medical robot. This state-of-the-art robotic surgery kit consists of four parts: a surgical console responsible for control; a robot with three or four arms (depending on the version); surgical tools and a 3D vision system. The robot makes it easier for the doctor to access places that are difficult to access in traditional surgery. The camera transmits a three-dimensional image with a tenfold magnification. Da Vinci is mainly used in minimally invasive procedures where high precision is necessary, including: in urology, cardiac surgery, vascular surgery, head and neck surgery, gynecology, proctology. Surgeons emphasize that thanks to surgery using the da Vinci robot, there is less blood loss, the likelihood of complications, and the patient's recovery period is shorter.

Robots mobilize the patient

Modern robotic solutions in rehabilitation are a chance for patients to recover. People after a stroke must relearn basic activities in everyday life, such as walking. Innovative rehabilitation devices and special robots can help them with these exercises. In addition to robots that are designed to improve the upper and lower limbs, there are, for example, dynamic tables for verticalizing the patient with a walking function. Thanks to these exercises, you can counteract the negative effects of long-term lying down. The devices also inform what the patient should do and how. In rehabilitation, the most important thing is that the patient activates the movement, and the robot only helps him in this, and does not perform it for a human.

Rehabilitation devices are constantly being developed to best support patients. The ideas of Polish scientists and engineers work here. An innovative solution from the Gliwice-based company EGZOTech is Luna-EMG – a rehabilitation and diagnostic robot supporting kinesitherapy of orthopedic and neurological patients. The device uses electrical signals from the muscles to support the patient's rehabilitation. Luna analyzes the patient's health condition and compares training at the beginning and end of therapy. As part of the diagnostics, he performs measurements of range of motion, muscle strength and electromyography. Rehabilitation using Luna increases muscle strength, range of joint mobility and improves the patient's motor coordination.

Plush robot for polysensory therapy

A small Shetland seal with soft, pleasant-to-touch white fur is not a toy, but… a robot with artificial intelligence for polysensory therapy. Marzena Grochowska, an artificial intelligence therapist for the Paro seal, explains that “this is the first social robot that has had clinical trials and after using which your blood pressure will definitely decrease, you will feel relaxed and your cognitive reserve will increase.” The therapy is intended, among others, for: for people with physical disabilities, autism, dementia, children with behavioral problems, oncology patients, and people living under excessive stress. The Paro robot listens, talks, feels, sees and moves. – Paro works in the Snoezelen therapy trend, which is a unique therapeutic method involving non-directive polysensory stimulation. In its basic mechanism, the robot's task is to reproduce and reflect human emotions – explains Marzena Grochowska.

The seal's behavior resembles a real animal, it responds to its name and hugs its caregiver-patient. It encourages him to be active, creates a sense of security and reduces stress.

The nurse robot will administer medications and measure the temperature

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the problem of staff shortages in hospitals, especially nurses. Medical staff have been burdened not only with more tasks, but also with a greater risk of contracting the coronavirus. Will a mobile robot replace a nurse in an infectious diseases hospital?

In June 2020, a prototype of an assistant robot was presented at the Silesian University of Technology, which may prove helpful in the future, e.g. during an epidemic. The device was developed by engineers from KUKA (a global manufacturer of intelligent solutions in the field of automation) together with scientists from the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering of the Silesian University of Technology and specialists from APA Group. The mobile robot is equipped with many medical devices, including: thermal imaging camera, medicine dispenser. The basis of this structure is the autonomous and mobile KMR iiwa robot, which, thanks to appropriate software, has been adapted to new tasks.

– This robot is equipped with an intelligent control system that allows you to define the starting point and the end point, and determine the trajectory along which it should move – explains Artur Pollak, President of the Management Board of APA Sp. z o. o. – The robot is equipped with a special tablet that allows communication with the patient, but at the same time the person who controls the robot can see how it performs its actions.

The nurse robot can measure temperature, administer medications, and act as an intermediary in contact between the patient and the doctor. Thanks to self-disinfection, it will not pose an epidemic threat, which will prevent infections in hospitals.

– Will the robot replace the nurse's work? I don't know. We are everywhere trying to replace humans, but it seems to me that this is leading to something else. We do not replace people, we make people's work easier. And I think that's how we should look at it, said Jerzy Pieniążek, MD, director of the Provincial Specialist Hospital No. 4 in Bytom, during the presentation of the device.

Robot fairy tales… for children

– I'm Pepper, reception robot, you're at the treatment center for little ones. I remind you to disinfect your hands – says one of the humanoid robots, which has appeared at the Pediatric Center since June 2021. John Paul II in Sosnowiec. This is the first hospital in Poland that, thanks to an EU subsidy, decided to purchase six humanoid robots – reception, inspection and educational. Pepper, Sanbot and Nao robots are intended to support staff, among others: in the field of patient service in registration, information about hospital services, admission hours, and measuring body temperature. Thanks to installed applications and video files, they can provide basic e-advice. The robot will practice with young patients during rehabilitation classes, and – thanks to the functions of imitating sounds, saying syllables and words – help in speech therapy exercises.

– Today, robots work in the service of medicine. They fulfill a very important function. Children staying in the wards have a lot of fun and joy thanks to them. They make their stay in the hospital more pleasant, and it is not an easy experience for them, always involving some mental burden – says Andrzej Siwiec, president of the Pediatric Center in Sosnowiec.

Preparing the robots to function in the hospital was quite a challenge, admits Łukasz Dudek, Senior Sales Officer from Weegree One, which supplied the devices to the Pediatric Center in Sosnowiec: “Programming the robots took us two months. The learning process of robots is continuous, so we will constantly update and improve them so that they function well in the hospital and support young patients.

In February 2022, Robokot, a device with cat whiskers and ears, appeared at the Department of Orthopedics and Traumatology of the Musculoskeletal System for Children of the Municipal Hospital Complex in Chorzów. BellaBot is primarily intended to help children forget about illness and pain. The device responds to touch, likes stroking, and has functions that enable the use of audiobooks and music. He can give the child books or stuffed animals. Thanks to the “follow me” function, he takes children to examinations and treatments. The presence of BellaBot during medical procedures such as blood sampling or peripheral puncture can have a positive impact on a small patient. The robot can also support the work of hospital staff, deliver meals and provide information about medical rounds.

Students of the Silesian University of Technology designed a walking platform in the shape of a dog – Reksio. Julia Nowak, Daniel Ślusarz and Łukasz Gałeczka explain in an interview for TVN24 (May, 2024) that they have been working on their robot for a year and are constantly developing it. The students would like their robot to serve children with disabilities. – It helps us convince children to like robots – objects that are alien, but still resemble something. (…) Robots are becoming more and more common in Japan. They convince people to use all kinds of machines and devices in medicine. We don't want children to be afraid during eye surgery or other procedures, says Łukasz Gałeczka.

Reksio is not the first robot created by students. In 2016, young scientists from the Białystok University of Technology presented “Bobot – a true friend”, a robot that can become a caregiver and friend of small patients in hospitals. The bobot, resembling a school-age child, thanks to the electronics used, will be able to check the patient's temperature and pulse, and carry e.g. blood samples in a backpack. Project coordinator Marcin Żukowski said in an interview for PAP that Bobot will be able to tell fairy tales, sing songs, show educational films, and communicate with deaf children. The robot – thanks to the built-in camera ¬ – will also help the nurse in keeping an eye on patients in the room. It can also be used as a tool for remote medical consultations. – Children need warmth and attention, so every additional initiative in the hospital is important – noted Marcin Żukowski. “Bobot – a true friend” was appreciated not only by little patients, but also in the world of science and received several awards: the main prize in the “Technotalent” 2016 competition, a gold medal at the International Fair of Inventions and Innovations INTARG 2017 and 2018, a gold medal at the International Concours Lépine 2018 Innovation Fair.

Robots are the future of medicine: versatile, reliable, precise, and do not get tired. They are needed in various sectors of medicine. Will there be more of them in Polish health care? If so, it will be better for us, because each of us can be a patient…

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