From microbots that scrape plaque from arteries to personal assistant robots that help care for patients, medical robots are transforming the face of healthcare. Demographic change, shortage of healthcare professionals, need to improve quality of life for the disabled and elderly and need to improve surgical procedures coupled with the focus to develop technologically advanced robots are some of the factors expected to stimulate growth in the medical robot markets.
The global medical robots market is segmented on the basis of segment, application and region. By segment, medical robots market is categorized into instruments and accessories and robotic systems.
Market Drivers for Medical Robots:
The growth of the global medical robots market can be majorly attributed to the following factors:
- Lack of healthcare professionals
- Need for better quality of life for disabled and aging population
- Rising need for better surgical procedures
- More focus on developing technologically advanced robots
- Market Scenario
The global medical robots market which was valued at $4.2 Billion in 2015 is predicted to reach $11.4 Billion by 2020, growing at a CAGR of 22.2% during the projected period.
In 2015, the North American market for medical robots held the largest market share among regions, followed by Europe and Asia-Pacific. However, Asia-Pacific is expected to be the key revenue pocket for this market, thus slated to grow at the highest CAGR. Rising aging population, increasing adoption rate of medical robots, increased cases of cancer, government initiatives and funding, and growing number of training programs in order to train surgeons for performing robot-assisted surgeries are the major factors responsible for the high growth in this region.
Based on product, the instruments & accessories segment accounted for the highest share of the market in 2015, and is also projected to grow at the highest rate over the forecast period. On the other hand, based on application, the laparoscopy segment held the largest market share in 2015, whereas the neurology segment is expected to witness the fastest growth.
Medical robots are set to revolutionize the healthcare sector, especially surgeries, since they are becoming more and more acceptable, globally. They not only help in reducing the time of surgery but also ensure the accuracy of the whole process coupled with better quality of patient care, thereby increasing the demand for surgical robots across the globe.
Da Vinci Surgical (Robot) System, the surgical assistant the US FDA approved back in 2000 has conducted more than 20,000 surgeries and has paved the way for robotic advancements in healthcare. In fact, vendors have introduced a number of new robots to better provide care to remote patients, help with various physical therapies and similar to the da Vinci system help perform surgery.
For example, Magnetic Microbots are a group of tiny robots used in various operations, such as removing plaque from a patient's arteries or helping with ocular conditions and disease screenings. Other robotic advancements are used to better the day-to-day lives of patients, helping them eat, like the Bestic Arm, or helping a patient regain her ability to walk, like many of Toyota's Healthcare Assistants.
Outside the hospital setting, caregivers use robots to enhance telemedicine and care for those restricted to their homes. The Vasteras Giraff, for instance, is a two-way call system similar to Skype and is used by doctors to communicate with the elderly. A PC, camera and monitor control the robot.
10 Medical robots that could change Healthcare:
Since 2011, the robot has won a number of industry awards for innovation. The robot system is also part of an additional research project called GiraffPlus, which allows investigators to evaluate how the robot can be incorporated into a larger system for home care.
2. Aethon TUG is an automated system that allows a facility to move supplies such as medication, linens and food from one space to another. The robot moves through hospital corridors, elevators and departments at any time during the day to make either scheduled or on-demand deliveries. End users can attach the system to a variety of hospital carts to transport supplies and it can be employed for a variety of applications. According to the company, the system allows for increased productivity since it "doesn't get distracted while making a delivery, allowing it to accomplish more in less time."
Additionally, the robot offers "sound ROI". In a 300-bed facility, for example, an estimated $4 million is spent annually on the task of pushing carts; while, one TUG robot working two shifts every day of the week saves the labor of nearly three full-time employees, yet costs less than one full-time employee.
3. RP-VITA (Remote Presence Virtual + Independent Telemedicine Assistant) allows physicians to care for patients remotely. The system features mapping and obstacle detection, as well as avoidance technology and an iPad user interface for control and interaction. The robot can also interface with diagnostic devices and electronic medical records (EMR) systems.
4. Bestic is a small robotic arm with a spoon on the end. The arm can be easily maneuvered, and a user can independently control the spoon's movement on a plate to choose what and when to eat. The robot has a "unique design" that fits on tables and can also be adjusted for each user by choosing buttons, a joystick, a foot control or another control device they prefer. Bestic is now a medical device that can be acquired privately or through prescription.
5. Nursing Assistant uses a direct physical interface (DPI) that lets a nurse have direct control over the movement of the robot, a "human-scale" mobile manipulator called Cody. Using the DPI, the nurse is able to lead and position Cody by making direct contact with its "body." When the user grabs and moves either of the robot's end effectors -- or the black rubber balls attached to the robot -- Cody responds. For example, pulling forward or pushing backward make the robot do the same, and moving the end effector to the right or the left causes the robot to rotate. Users can also grab Cody's arm and abduct or adduct it at the shoulder, causing Cody to move sideways.
6. CosmoBot is part of a phenomenon called robotic therapy. Doctors use CosmoBot to enhance the therapy of developmentally disabled children between 5 and 12 years old. Using the robot can make therapy more interesting for children and allows for better success when achieving long-term therapy goals. It also allows therapists to evaluate how successful the therapy is. Similar to CosmoBot are robots mirroring stuffed animals, also used for therapeutic purposes.
For example, PARO, which resembles a stuffed toy baby seal, allows patients to have the experience of animal therapy without the problems associated with live animals. The PARO robot, is designed to "express different moods" depending on the patient's interaction with it, and it can learn how to respond to a certain name when called it a number of times.
7. Microbots, an assortment of free-roaming robots that carry out precise, delicate tasks inside the human body. For example, a minibot named Steerable Surgeons is made of flat nickel parts assembled to make a 3-D tool that can be used during retinal surgeries, in drug therapy and for ocular disease. Its power sources are external electromagnetic coils, and it uses magnetic field gradients as a steering mechanism.
Similar to Steerable Surgeons are microbots such as Robot Pills and Plaque Busters. Robot Pills are designed as a capsule that contains a magnet, camera, wireless chip and a set of mechanical legs. It's powered by DC motors and magnets outside of the body, and it uses a camera and wireless telemetry system. The Robot Pill is about two centimeters long and clinicians use it in disease screening.
Similarly, Plaque Busters are magnetic capsules equipped with a micro drill head. Surgeons use these microbots, which are 10-mm long, to remove plaque from arteries. They're powered by electromagnetic coils and use magnetic field gradients to steer.
8. Anybots was founded in 2001 and performs robot research and development. Within healthcare, AnyBots provides a type of immersive telepresence, meaning instead of focusing merely on audio and video communications, the AnyBots robot allows for movement controlled by a remote.
If you're a doctor and have to manage 10 different nursing homes, the robot can go in, and the doctor can control his movement and direction. It can turn on sensors at the control of not the person in the room, but the person who wants to do the communication. This type of telepresense is impressive since it can move in and out of a specific area and record findings.
9. Swisslog RoboCourier is an autonomous mobile robot. The tool dispatches and delivers specimens, medications and supplies throughout the hospital. The robot carries what needs to be delivered, a person identifies the destination and the robot selects the most efficient route to deliver the materials.
Unlike other conveying systems, the robot can navigate throughout specific environments without lines, beacons, reflectors, magnets or tape, since each robot is guided by an electronic map that plans the best route to the selected destination. The robot uses laser detection to ensure precise and safe navigation, while voice-activated messages alert staff of the robot's presence. The robot also stops and waits until traffic is clear, and it can signal doors to automatically open so it can move through.
10. Balance Training Assist from Toyota, helps paralyzed patients walk or balance themselves. The robot acts as a two-wheeled balancing game. The machine displays one of three sports games on a monitor and requires the patient to make moves in the game by shifting his/her weight on the robot.
Other medical robots developed by Toyota include The Walk Training Assist robot and the Independent Walk Assist robot. The Walk Training Assist robot mounts on a paralyzed leg and detects movement of the hips through sensors at the thigh and foot. The robot helps the knee swing and the leg move forward to facilitate walking. The Independent Walk Assist robot is designed for walking training. In addition to helping the leg bend and move forward, the robot supports the patient's weight. The robot adjusts to support less weight as the patient's walking improves. The Assist robots can also monitor metrics, such as joint angles, allowing physicians to more easily track a patient's progress.
Can Microbot (medical robot) be an answer to formulation engineering of anticancer medicines?
One of cancer therapy’s holy grails is the delivery of drugs directly to tumors thereby killing diseased cells while sparing the healthy ones. A promising solution may be to deploy armies of carefully engineered microbot bacteria hybrids in the body. The microbots may be made by encasing magnetic nanoparticles and drug carrying bacteria in a bubble-like vesicle. The submarine like bots could power through fast currents in the large blood vessels transporting their drug-packing bacteria cargo to the network of tiny vessels that lead inside a tumor!
This certainly paves way for new startups, novel products for existing businesses and innovative ways of improving quality and delivery of healthcare to the community...
Shruti Bhat PhD MBA Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt is Pharmaceutical R&D and Continuous Improvement Director, Innoworks Canada
Shruti leads path-breaking product development programs such as Complex Generics, Nanotechnology and Targeted delivery systems for pharmaceuticals and natural products. Her mantra is to "Shorten development timelines, build quality-by-design, lean processes and bring products fast- to- market". Shruti integrates her proficiency in Design Thinking, Lean, Kaizen and other Continuous Improvement methodologies to improve R&D processes, productivity and profitability.
Shruti is Product Development & Continuous Improvement Advisor to several start ups, mid-size and growing firms in Canada, USA, India, Africa and other Emerging markets. Shruti has authored six books and is an invited speaker at several conferences and workshops.
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