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The Practical Application of Robotics in Health Care

With the rapid growth of modern society and the wide range of technological advancements, people have more opportunities to access challenging procedures, especially in the field of medicine. Technological progress in robotics and artificial intelligence provides countless future prospects for addressing current healthcare issues. Some of these challenges include population aging, an increase in chronic diseases, financial constraints, and the lack of a skilled workforce. According to Dolic, Castron & Moarcas (2019), the application of robotics in healthcare might lead to improvements in “medical diagnosis, surgical interventions, prevention and treatment of diseases, and support for rehabilitation and long-term care” (p. 7). In addition, the new digital solutions might facilitate more efficient and computerized management of work and provide continuous training for clinicians.

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Considering many benefits of AI in medicine, there is also a number of potential risks for care providers, such as the argument that technologies contribute either to solve inequalities or to aggravate them. With that said, the research question driving this study is “Does the application of the robotics technologies in the healthcare settings pose any risks to patients in terms of the ethical framework?” More specifically, the research will investigate whether implementing the robotics approach into the clinical practice is the solution for the physicians or risk towards safe and adequate patient-care delivery. Stahl & Coeckelbergh (2016) highlight the critical ethical concerns regarding the healthcare technologies, including replacement and its implication for labor and quality of care, moral agency, trust, data protection, and other safety issues.

This research will be based on the previously conducted studies about the successful application of robotics in various medical procedures and related risks. The research’s primary focus will be the article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research by Simshaw, Terry, Hauser & Cummings (2016). It analyzes the advent of robotics is transforming industries and identifies the issues of patient safety, security, and privacy, and the effect of regulation of medical equipment and data protection legislation on robots in healthcare. It is crucial to understand the changing role of robotics in health care and identify current and future challenges to enhance related benefits.

The research will be based upon the semi-structured interviews with both the clinicians and patients who were exposed to the robotics technologies treatment. Cresswell, Cunningham-Burley & Sheikh (2018) provide critical deductive components to assist in designing the research structure and remain close to the research question. They include the technological dimension, social/human dimension, organizational dimension, and macro-environmental dimension. First, one should define the increased demand for robotics in healthcare and evaluate the benefits they might provide in a variety of sectors. Dolic et al. (2019) identified the following applications of robotics for the medical sectors, including “robotic surgery, care and socially assistive robots, rehabilitation systems, and training for health and care workers” (p. 8). Accordingly, computerized technologies allow more precise, less invasive, and remote treatment and help to address the increased demands for long-term care of the aging population. Robotics also supports the patient recovery process and offers support for continuous training and lifetime education initiatives for doctors.

Other topics the research will focus on include the study of existing types of robots used in current healthcare, prediction of future innovations, and identification of the key robotics features that pose regulatory issues. As such, the proposed purpose of this study is to examine the current regulatory and ethical framework within which the robotics technologies function and emphasize medical device regulation and data protection laws. However, there is another significant aspect to address in terms of robotics in healthcare since they challenge our understanding of equality (Fosch-Villaronga, 2019). The intended audience engages clinicians, nurses, and patients who want to educate themselves on the current innovative approaches in the medical filed and future opportunities and threats they might provide. It will also be a helpful literary source for medical facilities aiming to rearrange their working strategy and improve health care delivery and patient satisfaction.

Annotated Bibliography

Cresswell, K., Cunningham-Burley, S., & Sheikh, A. (2018). Healthcare robotics: A qualitative exploration of key challenges and future directions. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20(7), 1–11.

In this article, the authors analyze the advent of the robotics is transforming industries on a global scale. The main goal of the study is to understand the critical and changing role of robotics technologies in the medical field and determine related current and future challenges. The researchers pursue to make the most of the benefits provided by the robotics and associated convergent technologies. It is a valuable study based on qualitative semi-structured interviews that examine the role of robotic applications in the health care system. The authors determined a broad range of stakeholders involved in the robotics activities within national and international medical settings by implementing purposive sampling. In general, the paper is conducted within the sociotechnical perspective. Sociotechnical issues related to the efficient implementation of robotics in healthcare are significant, particularly for patient-facing functions, and should be considered for efficient innovation and adoption.

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Simshaw, D., Terry, N. P., Hauser, K., & Cummings, M. (2016). Regulating healthcare robots: Maximizing opportunities while minimizing risks. Richmond Journal of Law and Technology, 22(3), 1–38.

The application of robotics in healthcare is considered the most dynamic area for technological implications and developments. However, the authors believe that robots are difficult to locate within current regulatory frameworks. This research examines the issues of patient and user safety, privacy concerns, and particularly the impact of medical device regulation and data protection legislation concerning robotics in medical settings. Thus, the research process was based on confronting the regulatory challenges to understand the characteristics of future robots in healthcare. Two legislative ways were identified as the critical points at which robots will evolve, such as highly autonomous functions of medical equipment and increased healthcare functions implemented by general personal robotics technologies. The authors defined potential gaps in legal protection, which might occur throughout the growth of robotics’ application in healthcare. With that said, this article is crucial for understanding the future challenges caused by the enhanced use of robots for medical needs and the need for new regulatory standards.

Stahl, B. C., & Coeckelbergh, M. (2016). Ethics of healthcare robotics: Towards responsible research and innovation. Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 86, 152–161. 

This source is a unique approach to examining the critical role that robotics technologies play in the medical system because it addresses the ethical and societal issues raised by healthcare robotics. The main argument of this research implies that forms of reflection, dialogue, and experiments are as significant as the ethical analysis, classic technology evaluation, and philosophical speculation. The authors consider these aspects as closely related to the innovation practices and usage context and, therefore, discuss different ways to accomplish it. This article defines external and internal forms of dialogical research and innovation through collaborative and embedded ethics to address the ethical framework of the robotics in healthcare. Stahl et al. provide critical insights on the opportunities and restrictions that such ethical-technological forms might provide and also investigate various ways of how national and supranational policies can maintain them. The main purpose of the paper is to identify the current discourse on the ethics of robotics in medicine and define areas that require further development.

References

Cresswell, K., Cunningham-Burley, S., & Sheikh, A. (2018). Healthcare robotics: A qualitative exploration of key challenges and future directions. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20(7), 1–11.

Dolic, Z., Castro, R., & Moarcas, A. (2019). Robots in healthcare: A solution or a problem? Workshop proceedings. European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety.

Fosch-Villaronga, E. (2019). Robots, healthcare, and the law: Regulating automation in personal care. Routledge.

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Simshaw, D., Terry, N. P., Hauser, K., & Cummings, M. (2016). Regulating healthcare robots: Maximizing opportunities while minimizing risks. Richmond Journal of Law and Technology, 22(3), 1–38.

Stahl, B. C., & Coeckelbergh, M. (2016). Ethics of healthcare robotics: Towards responsible research and innovation. Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 86, 152–161.

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