Make way for the age of software-defined healthcare.
Amid a growing shortage of doctors and nurses, hospitals around the world are increasingly turning to AI to improve the quality of care in the face of an aging population. One major undertaking across the healthcare industry is to deliver AI-driven solutions that can improve surgical care – a tall order.
According to the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, in the US alone, individuals can expect to undergo, on average, seven surgical operations over their lifetimes.
Robotics, used here as an umbrella term for computational and AI solutions, could speed up surgery, reduce complications, and decrease 30-day mortality among other benefits. This not only translates into savings for the hospital, but is priceless in terms of improving the health of our patients.
Letting robots bear the burden
Robotic platforms are reducing doctors’ workloads in ways that are not always visible to patients but are appreciated by providers.
When surgery is in progress, care teams outside of the operating room need to be aware of the procedure’s progress to be prepared for receiving the patient in the immediate postoperative period.
Robotics platforms can help detect the phases of surgery as they progress, including when surgery is almost done. This allows for the automatic notification of the post-op team to prepare for the incoming patient.
With the ongoing healthcare worker shortage, streamlining even the smallest tasks means doctors and nurses have more time to do the more meaningful work of caring for patients.
Technology to teach and train
Doctors are always learning, and robotics can help with that too.
Robotics platforms can automatically label different sections of a surgical video for future viewing and review. In this way, a robotic platform can act as a teacher, using AI to surface specific sections out of a recording to be used for teaching surgical trainees. But it does not stop here.
Robotic platforms will soon create digital twins of surgical procedures, building simulation platforms for surgical trainees that allow them to “rehearse” different scenarios in surgery. This provides a safe way to learn how to operate before ever putting patients under the knife.
Using the power of digital twins, hospitals, operating rooms, humans and health can be simulated to deliver improved personalized healthcare.
Prioritizing precision and accuracy
In surgery, precision and accuracy are essential.
For hip replacement surgery, precise and accurate placement of incisions is key to preventing complications and extended recovery times. Companies like Kaliber Labs are making use of a robotics platform to bring doctors the recognition, measurement, and landmarking tools necessary to perform minimally invasive orthopedic procedures.
Activ Surgical, a digital surgery imaging startup, is another company providing robotic solutions. They use computer vision and AI to visualize blood flow within a specific area of interest during laparoscopic surgeries. This helps doctors in assessing the viability of the organ or the tissue in question, helping them make informed decisions when performing specific surgical interventions and improving the chances of success.
With tools that increase precision and accuracy, surgery becomes more of a science than an art and leaves surgeons feeling more empowered in the decisions they make during a procedure.
Virtual scrub-ins to improve surgery access
The practice of surgery continues to evolve, leveraging new technology to improve patient outcomes.
Robotic platforms and the AI software that powers them is enabling a new way of doing surgery.
Whereas traditional surgery requires an experienced surgeon to be physically present in the operating room performing the procedure, robotic platforms have enabled procedures that can be performed with the help of surgeons outside the operating room, perhaps in a different continent altogether.
This means a patient undergoing surgery in India can benefit from the surgical expertise of a specialist as far away as the United States.
With companies like Proximie, surgeons can now perform a “virtual scrub-in,” which involves a remote surgeon virtually experiencing the procedure live, using augmented reality, machine learning and artificial intelligence tools, to assist the surgeon who is in the room with the patient.
This way, surgeons can seek the guidance of more experienced surgeons from remote locations during the surgery, ensuring better outcomes. As such, robots can eliminate physical limitations, delivering state-of-the-art expert insights to any surgery around the world.
With an ever-expanding gap between the demand and supply of quality care in the healthcare industry, robotic platforms are needed more than ever, and software-defined surgery platforms can help in many ways.
In the future, every hospital will be a smart hospital, using real-time sensors and AI edge computing to help healthcare professionals deliver more precise and efficient care. The power of surgical robotics will improve access to care, make surgery more precise and accurate, automate smaller healthcare tasks and teach and train professionals.
About Mona G Flores, M.D.
Dr. Mona G. Flores is the global head of medical AI at NVIDIA, where she oversees AI initiatives in medicine and healthcare to bridge the chasm between those industries and technology. NVIDIA will host its next virtual GTC developer conference from Sept. 19-22. Registration is free and available now at www.nvidia.com/gtc.