Robots and Medtech Unite! Is Industry 4.0 placing pressure on the healthcare industry to speed things up?
Lately, we have been witnessing a major transformation in the healthcare industry as more devices emerge that improve the overall patient experience. This transformation enables clinicians to monitor conditions remotely and more effectively while gathering data and reducing healthcare costs. There has been an increase in demand for more sophisticated and complex medical devices, as medtech developers are being pressured to make better use of innovative materials and implement the most advanced technology. This creates a new level of expertise, and something that can only be achieved during the present fourth industrial revolution, or better known as Industry 4.0.
4th industrial revolution
According to the market report, “Industry 4.0 Market, Technologies & Industry: 2019-2023”, within the next few decades, businesses will establish global networks that incorporate their machinery, warehousing systems and production facilities in the shape of cyber-physical systems. In the manufacturing environment, these cyber-physical systems comprise smart machines, storage systems and production facilities capable of autonomously exchanging information, triggering actions and controlling each other independently.
According to the report, the transformation of the economy being brought about by Industry 4.0 means that business processes such as supply, manufacturing, maintenance, delivery and customer service will all be connected via the Industrial IoT (internet of things) systems. These flexible networks will require new forms of collaboration between companies, both nationally and globally.
When considering medtech, the development of sensor technology and microelectronics has helped transform what is made and the way it’s made. Innovation moves at a fast pace within the healthcare sector, and the manufacturing sector must keep up. Healthcare systems are under huge pressure to deliver first-rate care at maximum value across the globe. The key to achieving this is not just through innovative medical technology but through the way it’s made. The IIOT allows this to happen.
So, what about the robots?
Robotic manufacturers are scrambling to answer the following question that is on everyone’s mind: how do we collect and use the data coming from robots to drive improvements in outcomes and patient care?
The true value that robotics data will ultimately provide is in improving outcomes through better recording of process, approach, measurements and outcomes data. If data can be collected across hundreds of hospitals, in operation rooms, and during procedures, this data can be an asset in the transformation of the healthcare industry. What if there was a way to display information showing differences and similarities in how surgeons operate, which could then be linked to the hospital’s data on patient outcomes? Right now, there most likely numerous ways surgeons perform specific procedures on individuals that result in different outcomes. The underlying issue here is that no one really knows which method works best because the data is very difficult to obtain, since it’s coming from many potential sources. With the collection of surgical robotic data however, results can be linked to information from 90-day patient management programs. From there, doctors will be able to isolate what activities and processes drive the best outcomes. Indeed, through the implementation of robots, surgeons will be able to improve execution while hospitals will improve care. This will result providing patients with better, more precise outcomes, while also reducing the total cost to the system. It really is a win-win situation for all parties involved.
We aren’t there just yet!
There is a long way to go until we see robots functioning the way we envision, and medtech companies will have to overcome many obstacles and face new challenges. Firstly, surgical data from robots is very difficult to obtain, and most surgical robots are not yet hooked up to hospital systems to directly interface with them. Furthermore, at the moment, they require a USB to download data as they cannot easily connect to the manufacturer. This means that a lot of manual work will have to be put in in order to retrieve the essential data. More importantly, there is very little connection to the ultimate patient outcomes, which means that the data may be too insufficient to utilize to make changes in the healthcare system.
In order to get this dream going and Robots “taking over” the medical industry, the following must be met:
- Connectivity: We must shift away from manual labor and focus on having robots connect to the systems utilized throughout hospitals; most medtech companies are pursuing this endeavor by having their robots be fully connected to hospital systems. However, most first-generation robots lack this level of connectivity. It will still take a few more years until this can be reached.
- Data Management: Unlike now where most medtech organizations manage very one -dimensional data on their customers/patients, the data from robotics will be greatly complex, and will have multiple dimensions. The data will be directly pulled from the robot, while also being linked to patient progress and outcomes.
- Analytics: Medtech companies have made great improvements in terms of analytics, but they still have to focus on large data sets.
Although the healthcare industry may not yet be equipped enough to fully incorporate robotics into their systems, there is no doubt that amazing opportunities await, and a wealth of data that will come from robotics in in the near future. Getting the product and the technology right is imperative, and medtech organizations now have the opportunity to improve the lives of millions of future patients by making significant changes in the healthcare system.
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