Steve Eames provides an insight into the role of robotic technologies in preventing infection during outbreaks, such as COVID-19, from disinfection of contaminated areas, to medical support and triage of patients. China has led the way, in terms harnessing innovation and artificial intelligence, but there is increasing potential for medical support automation in the NHS, as the technology arrives in the UK.
Even in normal times, without pandemic, there are unprecedented demands on healthcare systems globally. In the UK, the NHS is balancing workloads and productivity against economic constraints. Ageing population and the associated number of conditions to be treated will continue to be a challenge. Much is already being done by way of devolved funding and management at local level in order to maintain productivity and performance of hospitals, alongside other cost-containing efficiency measures.
Salaries and manpower costs versus patient-facing time needs to be optimised. Furthermore, while manpower and other resources can be stretched, we face a possibility of that being exacerbated further in the aftermath of Brexit. If you add to the mix an epidemic or outbreak, like we are experiencing with Coronavirus globally, it begs the question, how well were we prepared? What other tools or innovation could be deployed in order to combat and even prevent such unanticipated pressures to our healthcare system?
We have seen mixed reports on how China dealt with the recent outbreak, in which there seems to be controversy mainly around the early acceptance of the warning. Nevertheless, China is a country with its own challenges, and since the epidemic, it has taken extraordinary measures in dealing with the outbreak and minimising further impact on its healthcare system. Impressively, a hospital was constructed in a matter of days, for purposes of dealing with Covid-19. Another, lesser known measure, is the use of robotics combined with other technology in achieving tasks necessary in clinical areas.
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