Robots will soon be prominent in hospitals across the United Arab Emirates, helping health workers in carrying out tasks such as disinfecting rooms, filing records, facilitating remote contact between patients and doctors, and assisting surgeons during complex procedures.
Robots are becoming commonplace in modern hospitals, as administrators look to cut costs and healthcare professionals adopt automated systems to improve care. These machines are making an impact in healthcare today, from simple robots who haul food trays and dirty linen, to machines that assist doctors perform delicate surgical procedures. Scientists have even created nanorobots that can deliver drugs.
Receiving treatment using nanorobots injected by humanoid robot nurses or android doctors may be far-fetched for now, but simpler robots are being made for practical use in hospitals. The robots can take away from staff the burden of mundane tasks while allowing them to focus on direct patient care. There have been a number of cases where robots helped in treatment outcomes.
“There are many examples,” Dr Claus Risager, Partner & Director at Blue Ocean Robotics, said in an interview with Emirates 24|7. “Surgery with Da Vinci robot; logistics transportation of food, clean linen, medicine, blood samples, trash and more; rehabilitation robots for therapies to train and regain lost walking capabilities after stroke accidents; disinfection robot based on high-energy UV light pulses; socially interacting robots for stimulating cognitive function with dementia in the elderly so they get more relaxed and less nervous.”
He said that “robots can do the dirty, dull and distant jobs which humans are not so motivated to do” or “take over dangerous ones where people might get sick.” He added that robots have a “high degree of reliability and endurance” and can help physicians perform telemedicine procedures.
The United Arab Emirates wants to tap robotics technology to solidify its status as a regional leader in advanced healthcare.
In the last few years, the UAE has implemented several healthcare projects using robotics, such as Khalifa University's FLOAT system (Free Levitation for Overground Active Training) for patients with movement disabilities, and the first robot pharmacist in the region at the Universal Hospital in Abu Dhabi. Zeno, a humanoid robot, is helping children with autism in the UAE. Advanced robotic surgical systems are also being used, or in the process of being procured by care providers.
“We are now in contact with several hospitals as well as local partners that can work with us in bringing robots into healthcare facilities in the UAE,” said Risager, whose company participated in the recently concluded Robot Technology Exhibition (RTEX) pre-launch event held in Dubai attended by local stakeholders of the automation and robotics industry.
With ample financial resources, tech-savvy population, advanced infrastructure, a clear vision to innovate, and solid backing from the government, the UAE is determined to use robots not only in healthcare but across many industries.
According to industry estimates, the Middle East automation market will increase six per cent annually between 2012 and 2016, continuing a trend of wider adoption of this technology.
“The last five years have been very exciting for robotics in the UAE,” Golnaz van Huyssteen, operations manager, RTEX, told Arabian Industry. "A host of new technologies have eased and simplified the day-to-day lives of residents. As the industry expands, it offers huge growth opportunities for local business to invest, innovate and drive advancement in the technologies of tomorrow.