Robotics and artificial intelligence is revolutionizing the global healthcare ecosystem and is poised to create a greater impact on the global medical tourism sector. AI (Artificial Intelligence) in the most sophisticated form has been entwined in our daily lives, which is also influencing our healthcare choices and decision making.
To meet the medical requirements of the swelling population of patients beyond the borders satisfying them with the best treatment outcome, leading healthcare organizations in emerging medical tourism destinations are introducing robotics and AI in the healthcare support system in the best possible manner.
Future prospects of AI in robotics:
Robotics in surgery is in practice since 30 years and has almost reached the zenith performing high precision critical operations. But the future robots with intelligence would do something more beyond the operating room.
Leveraging machine learning, NLP (Natural Language Processing) and artificial intelligence, the next gen Robotics would help the healthcare organizations in better patient handling enhancing the patient experience by several degrees.
It is estimated that machine learning applications will touch $40 billion by 2020. Currently, only 1% of applications have in built artificial intelligence which is projected to grow by 50% by 2018. In medical tourism, professional efficiency, time and cost saving play a big role and naturally implementation of robotics with AI makes great sense.
Da Vinci robotics has already been creating waves in healthcare industry performing a wide range of critical surgeries and is the leader in the domain of minimally invasive robotic assisted surgery. This robot has performed 400,000 surgeries in USA since 2012. Smarter AI loaded robotic applications are in the pipeline opening avenues for smarter diagnosis and fast treatment actions.
Helps in capacity building of a medical tourism destination:
Handling patients from abroad is not easy as they always seek value for money. Therefore, patient care and quality service delivery are important drivers of medical tourism. Medical travelers do look for cost savings but not without the required care. AI induced robotic assisted surgery helps in getting things done faster with the highest level of accuracy.
- Robotic assisted clinical assessments take much less time and pave way for many patients avail the quality treatment. An intelligent robot can assist a doctor or surgeon in faster decision making saving valuable time.
- The surgeries are minimally invasive involving minimum pain and recovery time. The patient is on his/her feet in few days.
- This further helps in faster disengagement of the patient from the hospital.
For example, critical surgeries like removal of tumors and fibroids are performed with robotic assisted surgeries with utmost accuracy leaving the organ intact. Along with the cost savings, medical tourists look for such great treatment outcomes and fly back home fully satisfied.
Medical tourists now prefer Robotic and AI assisted surgery:
The days are not far that people would be looking for cost effective advanced robotic surgeries in complex medical cases through medical tourism and select the destination accordingly. For example, medical tourists planning to visit Caribbean islands also enquire about the popular Da Vinci Robot along with enquiries of stunning beaches and mountains.
The Caribbean islands have reaped huge benefits by opening doors to medical tourists especially from the US by opening the first robotic surgery institute, Samadi Robotic Institute in the Dominican Republic. The institute performs the most critical surgeries with minimum incisions with the Da Vinci robotics allowing about 75% cost savings for the Americans seeking medical treatments abroad.
Hospital Da Luz in Lisbon is also seeing an increased patient visit performing minimally invasive laparoscopies and prostatectomies with the help of same Da Vinci robotics system. This hospital has shot into fame providing state-of-the-art facilities in all major domains of healthcare where robotics assisted surgery is one bright star fetching high revenues through medical tourism.
People are much aware about the latest medical breakthroughs. Naturally, countries well recognized in such type of facilities and infrastructure would become their obvious choice.
Adding value in patient care:
This is another important factor that medical tourism destinations are highly concerned about. Repetitive tasks like checking vital parameters or drawing blood can be extremely daunting for the care givers and medical attendants which often give rise to unpleasant patient-caregiver interactions.
Moreover, these repetitive tasks when done manually are error prone fetching undesirable consequences. Robots with intelligence can easily perform these tasks in a smarter way while the caregiver can attend more patients with empathy and improved decision making abilities.
Some critical care patients need round the clock monitoring which AI induced robots can do efficiently helping in faster recovery. Specially designed robots would also help in shifting beds and aid in patient movement on the bed better than while done manually.
Improving hospital safety standards:
Medical tourism increases the risk of hospital acquired infections (HAI). Many abroad patients dwell in apprehension of carrying back such infections back home. Incidences of HAI do not augur well for the future of a healthcare organization.
Robotics can be used in better disinfection of hospitals and clinics and improve their safety standards. Applying high intensity ultraviolet light, these specially designed cleaner robots can destroy the cellular structure of micro-organisms effectively than any manual labor.
UAE installs robots that checks symptoms, sanitizes and sterilizes indoor spaces:
Chances of infections will be with us even with the waning of Covid 19. It may be some other category of viruses in future. Medical tourism will focus more on minimal contacts and UAE has ramped up their robotic skills. The Emirati innovator Al Mazroiei has come up with a sterilization robot that be remotely controlled from 3 km distance. The robot can hold sufficient battery charge to last for 10 hours and can do effective sterilizing.
Not only UAE, similar robotic applications are widely been used in Covid hospitals in China, India and many other countries to deliver food, medicines and other supplies preventing frontline healthcare workers from frequent exposure to coronavirus. Hospital safety standards are likely to be heightened in post-Covid healthcare and when it comes to the safety concern of foreign patients, robots can offer the best solution.
Filling in the gap of healthcare workers
Shortage in healthcare workers across the globe is well-known. Robotic nurses can very well fill in the demand supply gap as well as prevent burnout of nurses and other healthcare workers. Healthcare organizations handling volumes of medical tourists are set to deploy robotic nurses that can take vital parameters, draw blood, monitor a patient’s condition, fill digital forms and even do menial tasks like moving carts or lifting patients.
Improved follow up:
Lack of proper follow up after a major treatment is often a big botheration for a medical tourist after flying back home. Top line hospitals/clinics would use the remote sensed robot to look after the patients’ queries and solve them quickly.
Robotics with AI with its vast potential is creating waves in healthcare sector by improving the jobs of physicians and associated professionals allowing them deal with patients with more care and empathy. This massive healthcare revolution will boost the medical tourism industry with more number of patients getting the desired cost effective treatment outcome, a high-value factor in the market.
Scared of injections? Try robotic pills
Pain management and reducing illness-related discomforts of patients are two main objectives in improving patient experience in medical tourism. When patients are traveling beyond the border investing valuable dollars in top class treatments, healthcare providers are adopting cutting-edge technology in improving patient experience. Robotic pills can provide an alternative way of painful injections and also help in better disease management.
Nobody loves those painful pricks but unwillingly give into it in the absence of suitable orally ingestible alternatives required to treat chronic conditions. For example, a diabetic patient has to take regular insulin shots in the naval region to keep the blood sugar level in check. This daily painful activity is quite stressful. In treating other chronic conditions like psoriasis and arthritis, injections till date have been the most effective form of drug delivery.
Rani Pill – a novel approach in bio-therapeutics:
Though named Robotics, it does not come with any electronic device but is a sophisticated pill that comes packed with a lot of innovations. Large drug molecules, (also known as biologics) including peptides, proteins, and antibodies which till date are taken through injections for proper absorption in the body could be administered effectively through this innovative oral pill.
The robotic pill is set to overcome one of the toughest challenges in drug delivery offering by switching to painless mode from the painful one. The inventors are highly optimistic in achieving a new milestone with robotic pills. These pills will also be used to treat cancer and Crohn’s disease as well.
Rani Therapeutics, the San Jose based startup is receiving huge fundings. The recent funding it received amounted to $43 million with a cash haul of $142 million since the pill was created in 2012 in the Incube lab. The company is getting a strong backing from Alphabet’s Google Ventures and other pharma giants such as Novartis and Astra Zeneca.
The CEO of Rani Therapeutics, Mir Imran, is clear on the mission to adopt a non-invasive approach to deliver biologics in the most convenient way irrespective of its molecular weight and structure, so as to improve the quality of life of millions.
Currently, this robotic pill is still in the pre-clinical trial phase and is yet to be tested on humans. Hopefully, in the next 2-3 years, it will be available in the market.
Where is the challenge in using ingestible pills?
The drugs comprising of large proteins cannot be taken orally as they break down fast in the stomach. The acid and enzymes present in the gastrointestinal tract literally eat up the drug before it can be absorbed in the blood stream to produce the desired effect.
How do the robotic pills work?
A prototype robotic pill is loaded with a drug and coated with fine micro-needles made from sugar of specific length and diameter. As you take the pill, it passes through the gastrointestinal tract and stomach without being affected by acids and enzymes and enters the small intestine.
The gradual peristaltic movement helps the pill pass through the intestine and at a desired pH level, the outer case of the capsule dissolves exposing the needles to the intestinal lining. A valve releases carbon dioxide through the fusion of two preloaded chemicals in the pill forcing the needles to inject the drug into the intestine wall.
The other ingestible materials of the robotic pills exit the body in due course but the micro-needles get dissolved in the small intestine. You may apprehend another painful experience from inside. Since the gastro-intestinal tract is devoid of pain receptors, there would be no painful sensations from within.
Rani Pill is expected to function effectively with small molecules, therapeutic peptides, proteins, antibodies, and nucleotides. The materials used are FDA approved and safe for ingestion. Moreover, the low cost of materials makes it possible for high volume manufacturing.
Robotic pills much effective than subcutaneous administration:
In terms of effectiveness, robotic pills stand much ahead of the subcutaneous administration. In a prior testing with insulin in pigs, it was found that micro-needles were successful in injecting the insulin into the lining of the stomach, the small intestine, and the colon; resulting in a drop in blood glucose levels. The drop in blood glucose level was faster and in larger amounts when compared with the same quantity of insulin injection on the skin.
Demonstrating a superior knowledge and expertise:
The manner by which the Rani Pill positions itself to inject the drug into the intestinal wall reveals a sound knowledge and expertise in material science engineering of the team behind the creation of this magical capsule.
Things to consider:
While this robotic pill seems to put an end to painful injections, few questions are still left to be answered:
- How long will the pill take to release the drug?
- Will it be suitable for patients with gastrointestinal ailments and erratic peristaltic movement?
- If there is any delay in drug release due to erratic peristalsis, what would be the possible effect?
Innovations in global healthcare are bent on enhancing the patient experience. Thankfully, this robotic pill assures a new phase in daily pain management.