Is your doctor virtually moving in with you?

Robotics for Medicine and Healthcare is considered the domain of systems able to perform coordinated mechatronic actions (force or movement exertions) on the basis of processing of information acquired through sensor technology, with the aim to support the functioning of impaired individuals, medical interventions, care and rehabilitation of patients and also to support individuals in prevention programs, but with voice enabled artificial intelligence, tech engagement on health concerns is getting much more personal.

Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre, New York’s Northwell Health, Ochsner Health in New Orleans Atrium Health (formerly Carolinas HealthCare) are working on applications for Alexa and other voice-based personal assistants, mainly built around patient queries. Voice-enabled digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa are finding traction in consumer-facing healthcare on the basis of being able to dramatically improve user experience by providing the ability for people to interact with devices at a more personal level,” Steve Halliwell, Amazon Web Services’ director of healthcare and life sciences, said in a press release.

It really changes the game for patient engagement,” Nathan Treloar, president and COO of Orbita, a Boston-based provider of connected home healthcare technology that debuted a cloud-based platform and interface for intelligent voice assistants at HIMSS17, said in an interview earlier this year. The Alexa Diabetes Challenge also highlights the capability of digital assistants to create an interactive care management platform at home for remote monitoring programs for any number of conditions for people living in assisted living facilities.

Remote presence robots, from simple Skype video chats on a mobility platform to serious remote presence robots and other assistive robots are becoming increasingly viable ways to complement healthcare technology trends such as smart monitoring systems and mobile applications, thus easing the dependence on increasing limited human carer resources.

At the most basic level, ‘healthcare robotics’ (medical robotics) is simply the application of robotics technology to healthcare to diagnose and treat disease, or to correct, restore or modify a body function or a body part. The combination of robust, innovative research, powerful, low-cost enabling technology and the approval of business, government and academic leaders, would seem to bode well for the commercial prospects of healthcare robotics. Healthcare robotics technology is viewed by business leaders and government officials as playing a major role in addressing a number of pressing healthcare challenges, not least human resources.

While robotics technology is being exploited in healthcare in a variety of ways, most systems are still in the research phase. The combined ability to ‘sense, think and act’ makes robotics a transformative technology for the healthcare industry. The European Commission strongly supports independent living through the use of new technologies – including robotics – as part of the Digital Agenda strategy @DigitalAgendaEU On top of the new research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 #H2020 , two important initiatives are dedicated to taking new technologies to the market and homes and to embedding them in our systems for health and social care.

In the UK, a project known as CHIRON (Care at Home using Intelligent Robotic Omni‑functional Nodes) is developing a system of modular robotic components located in multiple positions around the home which users can adapt to perform different assistive tasks and OMRON Healthcare has recently announced a partnership with Amazon Alexa in the UK which will allow people to ask the voice-based service questions about their blood pressure.

The next technology war on the horizon is shaping up to be consumer artificial intelligence (AI) devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, Microsoft Cortana and Apple Siri. With the interaction of Alexa and Cortana gives healthcare control of smart devices in people’s homes (Alexa) with booking appointments, accessing calendars and reminders (Cortana) to help patients. This unique partnership with LVPEI and the consortium brings the best in the field together to reimagine healthcare using machine learning through the Microsoft Cortana Intelligence Suite,” Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Data Group Joseph Sirosh said in a statement.

Using Microsoft’s cloud platform technology Cortana Intelligence Suite, MINE will collaborate and work from datasets of patients around the world to develop machine learning predictive models for vision impairment and eye disease, with the ultimate goal of eliminating avoidable blindness and scaling worldwide delivery of eye care services. He thinks AlphaGo’s machine learning techniques will be useful in robotics, smartphone assistant systems, and healthcare.

Tech giants including Amazon, Apple, and Google made initial moves in the first half of 2018 to flood the health IT market with innovations in interoperability, health data exchange, EHR patient data access, wearable devices, healthcare apps, and other areas primed for development, so unquestionably health and wellbeing at home is set to get much more technical!

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