Ever since the advancement of the digitalization of healthcare in the 1990s, robotics has become increasingly common in modern hospital facilities. As it stands, robot assistants are being utilized in different areas of surgery, administration, healthcare enhancement, and patient support (Riek, 2017). Nevertheless, there are voices criticizing the increased invasiveness of technology into the medical field, citing expenditures, loss of autonomy, and proneness to failure as examples (Phan, 2021). Despite these complaints, robotic equipment is going to be more prevalent in future healthcare settings due to its ubiquitousness, efficiency, and improved patient outcomes, replacing and easing the burden on doctors and nurses alike.
Arguments for Using Robotics
The primary argument for using robotics in clinical settings is that it would reduce the workload on the medical staff. The healthcare industry has a chronic problem of personnel shortages, with the average turnover rate in the US being over 15% (Riek, 2017). Labor-intensive tasks, such as delivering supplies from one office to another, disinfecting equipment, providing rudimentary medical care to patients and performing hygienic procedures could be delegated to machines, freeing up personnel to perform tasks that require a human perspective.
Another benefit of robotic assistants is the accuracy and efficiency of completed tasks. Robots are already being used in surgery as they lack the capacity for human error (Phan, 2021). The absence of memory lapses and errors in judgment is excellent when performing pre-determined tasks – a robot would not forget to administer medication, nor would it misplace or mistake the number of pills a patient requires (Phan, 2021). Low-risk mechanical tasks like disinfection, cleaning, maintenance, and others can also be safely relegated to robot assistants. Finally, they are reliable to work 24/7, allowing medical facilities to operate at higher capacity around the clock.
Arguments Against Robotics in Healthcare and Rebuttals
One of the most popular arguments against the use of robotics in healthcare is cost-related. At this point in time, robots are expensive, and their use increases the overall costs of an operation by 4,000-45,000 dollars in the surgery field alone (Riek, 2017). Often, these expenditures are placed upon the patient or require government reimbursement. However, as robotics become more entrenched in healthcare, production prices would decrease. In addition, the benefits provided to patients will improve the quality of care, which would be worth the costs.
The second argument is that of the loss of autonomy for the patient. If robots take over, the process of healing and recovery will be out of their hands, resulting in robot-centric rather than patient-centric care (Phan, 2021). This argument can be countered by the fact that robots are tools, and human patients will have supremacy over them. They can be equipped to alter and accommodate the necessary procedures according to the patient’s desires. Adaptability to the user has always been one of the primary features in many electronic devices.
Robotics is a useful tool already being implemented in medicine. Technology has the potential for looking after recovery and elderly patients, administering medicine, and providing maintenance. The complications associated with costs and dehumanization of healthcare can be overcome by reducing production costs and allowing for better interconnectivity between patients and machines. Overall, further development and acceptance of healthcare robotics would benefit everyone.
Phan, G. H. Humanoid robotics in healthcare: A review. Design Engineering, 2021(7), 3641-3656.
Riek, L. D. (2017). Healthcare robotics. Communications of the ACM, 60(11), 68-78. Web.