Delhi’s AIIMS hospital has a floor disinfectant and a humanoid robot in its Covid-19 wards and Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru is using an interactive robot to screen patients and medical staff at its entrance. Measures such as tele-monitored surgeries, tele-education, tele-medicine and video consultations with doctors has been used by medical professionals during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Most of the hurdles encountered by suburbs & tier 2 cities today would be neutralised through the shift of healthcare system towards collaborative and preventive healthcare. Although robotic technology is currently expensive for wider adoption across all types of healthcare settings, its adaptability specifically with reference to robotic assistants in surgery has already made in-roads in India. In addition, recently many hospitals had turned to robots as maintaining social distance became the norm due to the threat posed by Covid-19.
Robots may be utilised to bring safer specimen processing and diagnostic procedures with zero infection risk from remote areas which normally have lower technological levels compared to modern laboratory settings.
Robots on the surgical beat
India’s first robotic-assisted surgical procedure took place at a Delhi hospital in 2002. The world’s first heart surgery from a remote location was done in India in 2018, by Gujarat’s Dr. Tejas Patel, a cardiac surgeon, who with the help of advanced robotics, conducted the world’s first telerobotic surgery on a middle-aged women with blocked artery while sitting 32 kilometres away from the patient.
Over the years, robotic–assisted surgeries have made significant contributions to Indian Healthcare industry, with the growth of the Indian robotic-assisted surgical market expected to reach ₹2,600 crore by 2024 at a CAGR of 19.8%, as per a report by Research and Markets. Based on the findings of a symposium last year, almost 50% of all surgeries in India will be robot assisted by 2025. Concurrently, research and development in the fields of surgical systems, healthcare products and diagnostics will also see a marked uptick.
There are reports that over 500 robotic surgeons exist in India including deployment at government and private healthcare facilities. Due to shorter recovery period post-surgery, relatively less pain and blood loss, robotic assisted surgeries are considered to be a better alternative to open surgeries and laparoscopic surgeries.
Wider use of robotic technology shall enable Indians to save travelling and boarding costs over and above the usual hospitalisation costs. Specifically, in the case of medical surgery, robotics have been facilitating experts the majority of whom are concentrated in metropolitan areas and not available due to remote and inaccessible terrain for the tier 2 and 3 population.
Recently, the world’s first cost-effective robotic endo training kits had been developed in India in collaboration with the Republic of Korea. It is a surgical training robot, equipped to provide a high-definition observation of the patient’s anatomy. The live feed of the anatomy is broadcast on a screen which leverages virtual reality technology.
In addition to assisting surgeons, robots have been playing a critical role in training young medical professionals to become future surgeons. A cost effective robotic surgical training has become an ideal training model for young surgeons in tier 2 and tier 3 hospitals. It has accelerated the process of making young surgeons more skilled by reducing time and enhancing effectiveness.