The industry is bracing for a boom in the use of robots in medical diagnostics, as companies look to automate parts of their workflows and to lower costs.
In a new study from the McKinsey Global Institute, which looks at how robots are reshaping health care, companies such as AstraZeneca, Roche, and Novartis are taking advantage of advances in automation to automate the delivery of patient care.
While the number of people in U.S. hospitals has grown steadily, the number and type of patients treated by the healthcare system has declined.
And while many hospitals are already using robotics to help with care coordination, they are also using them for other tasks such as sorting and billing, said Robert Kosterman, senior vice president for innovation at McKinsey.
That’s because these robots need to be able to do a lot of different things, and they also have to do that with much more precision, said Kostermans team member and medical director of clinical robots at Astra Zeneca.
Robots are also a key part of healthcare systems in many parts of the world.
Hospitals are already working with them to manage and reduce infections, while robotic systems at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore are helping surgeons perform surgery.
“The potential for the robotic system to be used to perform a lot more than just the routine surgical operations is huge,” Kostemers said.
In addition to healthcare, Kostercan, who co-authored the study with McKinsey’s Paul Vennucci, said the industry is also exploring the use as part of a broad-based transition to robotics.
“What are the challenges in the medical field?
What are the opportunities for robotics?” he said.
To help answer those questions, Kontemers and his colleagues surveyed nearly 1,000 healthcare professionals, asking them how robots might be used in their work and how robots could help with the delivery and management of care.
Among the key findings:Some of the most common concerns among healthcare professionals were safety, automation, and productivity.
Many healthcare professionals also were concerned about how their robots would be used, such as how they would interact with other healthcare professionals and how they might be trained.
For example, healthcare professionals are worried that robotic systems might not be able be used safely or in the way that they would like.
Some healthcare professionals worry that their robots could be programmed to perform certain tasks too quickly.
Many healthcare professionals reported having a limited understanding of the technology.
They were also worried about the impact that robots might have on their careers and jobs, and whether they would be able see benefits from using them.
“A lot of healthcare professionals don’t understand the potential benefits of using robots,” Kontems said.
For those who were uncertain, many healthcare professionals said they would consider the technology if they could see the benefits.
“If I’m at a conference and I’m going to the hospital, I’ll ask for the robot and then go to the patient,” said one healthcare professional who did not want to be identified.
The McKinsey study, which was published online Tuesday, found that while most healthcare professionals surveyed had heard of the use and benefits of robots, there were significant barriers to the use.
Among those who had not, about half said they had never seen a robot use its arms to move a patient, and a quarter said they did not understand how robots work.
While more healthcare professionals may not be aware of the potential use of robotics, the study found that some of the biggest hurdles to adopting robotics in healthcare could be overcome if companies are willing to work together.
“I think it’s good to get ahead of the curve and look at this more,” Kondemers, the McKinseys co-author, said.
“We’re starting with a lot and looking at what’s going on and what’s the potential.”