By: Andrea Casiano, Beverly Banez, Sunitha Dharman, & Trentan Pecorelli
University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences
Instructor: Dr. Ellen Jones
Although medical robots made their first appearance about 34 years ago to obtain a biopsy specimen, recent years of research using artificial intelligence and computer technology have led to diversified strategic uses of these robots in healthcare (Gyles, 2019). Today, medical robots are being deployed in surgical suites to assist with surgery, facilitate hospital logistical movements, and improve patient and provider experience. The CoVID experience has increased the burden to rural emergency departments, need for immediate triage, provide mental health services, and minimize the risk of contagion transmission in congested areas.
Robotic telemedicine allows remote patient monitoring, improves access to care without exposure to contagions, and is smart enough to learn and be taught how to take vitals, deliver samples to the lab, and many other tasks (Zubrog, 2020). It can be leveraged to offload various exams and tasks, leading to more efficient and timely care.
Specialists are especially stretched in rural areas. Presently, 39.5% of radiology consults, 27.8% of mental health consults, and 24.1% of cardiology consults take place via telehealth or telemedicine platforms.
Costs for robotic equipment include $50,000 for startup costs and $6,000 of maintenance costs. This will result in an estimated reduction of operational costs of approximately $1,508 per patient served annually (Gkegkes et al., 2017; Jang, 2020).
Medicaid has implemented the Quality Incentive Payment Program, whereby hospitals are compensated for improving quality benchmarks by reducing readmissions and improving population health, which can be achieved with the assistance of robotic telemedicine.The North American medical robot market is expected to see significant growth between 2022 and 2029, estimated to reach $5.67 billion (Data Bridge Market Research, 2022).
As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Congress approved 200 million dollars in funding for telehealth programs (Federal Communications Commission, 2021). The Connected Care Pilot Program, a $100 million dollar project, is another federal initiative that provides up to 85% funding for pilot programs to cover network and broadband connectivity costs intended to improve connected care services to patients requiring care (Federal Communications Commission, 2021).
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed healthcare utilization, and we must analyze and explore all available resources to implement robotic telemedicine to support current healthcare and improve future care and outreach.
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