The world of medicine has been witnessing rapid changes and hospitals are seeking to keep pace with technological development to enter the world of medical technologies given their importance for years, and even decades to come. This is by adopting modern solutions and means in providing service to patients in light of healthcare tech companies’ developments and achievements. This is while taking into account the challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak and the need to maintain social distancing, health isolation and other precautionary measures that will apparently accompany us in the coming period at a time when the number of patients who need medical care is rising.
In light of the novel coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed thousands of lives all over the world, as well as the infection of many doctors and healthcare workers in several countries, robots have played an important role in helping medical staff in hospitals. But in this context, robots cannot replace doctors, but they provide them with the necessary protection when dealing with patients with highly infectious diseases.
On the one hand, it is now possible to integrate a set of advanced technologies that help the medical staff in providing healthcare that exceeded patients’ expectations. On the other hand, we have witnessed an increasing number of patients who need healthcare more efficiently and in a comfortable and healthy environment at a time when the spread of coronavirus is increasing along the social distancing and isolation it imposes, which contributed to changing the nature of the services provided to patients so that the smart autonomous robot can do it.
The novel coronavirus drove the expanded use of the autonomous robot in several countries in order to reduce direct contact between the nursing staff and the patient in the isolation room. The robot can perform medical logistic services such as providing medicines to patients and delivering food, which reduces contact between pharmacy staff, doctors and patients.
In some countries, hospitals are now equipped with robots that feature screens to conduct video consultations without the need to enter the patient’s room, which allows more frequent contact with patients without the need to wear the full protective gear.
The autonomous robot is able to be near the patient safely, and this robot can also work throughout the day in hospital corridors and inside patient rooms to reduce human contact in the first place.
In addition, this robot is able to work for long hours, which reduces the burden on the medical staff and the stress they are exposed to during working hours, so they are able to perform tasks that take longer than the most urgent responsibilities, and thus reduce the error rate in the medical work.
Technology in medicine and automated applications in hospitals are witnessing a great diversity. Today, there are surgical robots, robots that provide care by the patient bed, robots that disinfect rooms and others to take laboratory samples, transfer and analyze them, as well as prepare drug doses.
The nursing staff are the first to meet the coronavirus patients and communicate with them, which puts them at greater risk of catching the infection, in addition to the role assigned to them and the exhausting fatigue due to the long working hours. Hence the idea of robot nurses that are designed to assist nurses, not replace them. The robots are “alternatives to human contact to diminish risks for providers,” who are caring for patients with infectious diseases. The robot nurse enters the patient’s room, fills the required papers digitally, monitors the patient’s general condition, and takes vital signs from blood pressure, temperature and heart rate, thus minimizing the risk of infection of healthcare workers. Among the tasks assigned to him is to provide food and medicine to patients in hospitals, especially in the coronavirus departments. It is sterilized again before helping other patients, to reduce the risk of cross-infection.
The frequent rounds of the robot nurse in patient rooms make it necessary to sterilize it frequently between visits, which is done automatically, minimizing the risk of virus spreading and providing preventive protection tools in hospitals. These robots can roam the hospital without assistance, because they are equipped with software that recognizes the corridors and a map of the building.
The robot nurse is widely used in countries where the coronavirus has spread, such as China and Italy, and despite the importance of this achievement and its role in reducing human contact and protecting the medical and nursing staff, humans and personal contact with the patient cannot be replaced. Some patients haven’t accepted the contact with the machine, but in such circumstances, there is an urgent need for this type of device.
China was one of the countries that benefited from the robot nurse in light of the pandemic outbreak, due to its ability to examine 10 people at a time, and detect cases of infection within 40 minutes. These robots have benefits that outweigh shortening the time or speed of work, and one of its most important benefits is reducing human contact, which leads to a decrease in the coronavirus infection rate. Robots roam patients’ rooms to provide them with food without any direct contact with the nurses or fear of disease transmission to them.
These robots monitor parameters from equipment in the room, relaying them to hospital staff. They have touch-screen faces that allow patients to record messages and send them to doctors. Most importantly, they allow the hospital to limit the amount of direct contact doctors and nurses have with patients, thus reducing the risk of infection.
As for the robot that delivers meals, as soon as it reaches the door of the patient room, it automatically calls the patient’s name and tells him that his meal is ready. The patient goes out to meet the robot, where he picks up his meal and presses the “FINISH” button. Immediately after that, the robot moves to the next room to do the same job. All patients receive an oral message asking them not to have any contact for fear of transmission, and then it wishes them a speedy recovery. In short, the robot nurse covers a logistics aspect of the medical work, allowing teams working in hospitals and clinics to focus on patient care. It moves in hospital corridors and between rooms on wheels while relying on its memory that saves the hospital map.
Hospitals are in need of cleaning and sterilization during the coronavirus outbreak, which have been successfully carried out by some types of robots. Many countries where the pandemic has spread have resorted to robots that are able to eliminate germs and sterilize rooms from viruses and bacteria in coronavirus isolation wards within a few minutes.
The robot moves autonomously through a room, using ultraviolet-C light to destroy the RNA in a virus and DNA in bacteria, effectively gutting the virus’ ability to infect people and multiply. This robot kills 99.99 percent of viruses, bacteria and fungal spores.