The robot will see you now: how machines could reshape post-pandemic medicineBMJ 2021; 373 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n454 (Published 28 April 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;373:n454
- Jo Best, freelance writer
- London, UK
During the early days of the pandemic, Bristol’s Southmead Hospital tested communication robots. Typically, these are “telepresence units”: a small screen and webcam mounted on a pillar that can be driven around a hospital remotely. Such robots enable remote communication—for example, between patients in intensive care and relatives who can’t be by their bedside because of covid-19, or between a patient on the ward and a doctor who may be at home shielding.
“These communication robots feel like a bit of the covid legacy,” said Tim Whittlestone, North Bristol NHS Trust’s deputy medical director. “Covid suddenly gives you a need for this technology.
“They’re not just helpful because of the pandemic, they’re helpful for staff too. When you have a limited number of doctors and nurses, they allow a degree of flexibility for people to do ward rounds remotely, and without their PPE [personal protective equipment] on, or to work from a more comfortable setting, or from home if they’re isolating.”
The robots were tested in a hospital setting in case they were needed in caring for dying patients at Bristol’s Nightingale hospital. In the end, they weren’t deployed because patients with covid-19 weren’t transferred there, but such robots might be used in the health service in future in areas with shortages of staff on site, beyond the context of the pandemic.
Robotic laparoscopic procedures
Surgical robots have been used in the NHS for over 15 years, helping surgeons with fine manipulation in laparoscopic procedures. Robot assisted surgeries are now commonplace in a handful of specialties, including urology, gynaecology, and …
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