Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Improving the Quality of HealthCare with Robotics


Over 100 senior healthcare and robotics executives convened just prior to the Partners HealthCare Connected Health Symposium to explore how robotics is impacting healthcare and improving the lives of patients. The pre-symposium executive workshop explored a full range of robotics applications in healthcare from robotics in surgery to robotics solutions for assisting the elderly. Each session examined the latest products as well as future research, with a focus on how these innovative tools are impacting the quality of care in our lives today and in years to come.

The program kicked off with a keynote by Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot, on the Future of Robotics in Improving Quality of Life. Colin provided broad thinking on the role of robotics in healthcare, setting the stage for sessions on robotics surgery, lab systems and other hospital uses, rehabilitation and assistive robotics, and home health robotics, including telepresence robotics.

Next, a panel of executives representing Brigham & Women's Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Cardiorobotics, Corindus Vascular Robotics, Intuitive Medical, vGo Communications (as moderator), and Vecna discussed advances in surgical robots that give physicians greater accuracy and control while reducing the invasiveness, risk of complication and corresponding recovery time for patients. Surgical robots, they noted, further enable specialists to treat more patients both on site and in remote connected health applications. Additional advantages to robotics surgery mentioned during the program include better articulation and imaging resulting in improved ergonomics for doctors.

The program next explored rehabilitative and assistive robotics with executives representing Hocoma, iWalk Inc. (iWalk founder Hugh Herr pictured to the right), Myomo Inc., Tibion, and vGo Communications (as moderator). Synopsis of this session is that robotic technology is increasingly being used to perform repetitive rehabilitative tasks, allowing care givers to see more patients while providing greater access to a more consistent training regimen for patients and benchmarking a patient's progress with great precision. The result is more patients treated, more care provided to each patient, and reduced cost for the provider.

The final session looked at home health robotics and featured representatives from Barrett Technology, iRobot (HealthCare Division), Intuitive Automata, and vGo Communications. We have seen robots that clean floors noted this panel, but what about robots that help improve our health in the home. Robots that can help you monitor your eating habits, talk to caregivers remotely and assist with household chores like dishes are not that far away. Given the increasing demands on healthcare providers and demographic trends of the next couple decades, robotics in the home is poised to become an increasingly familiar tool in the caregiver's arsenal.

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