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  • Sumeet Kaur Wasu

Keeping Healthcare Workers Safe: Application of Tele-Robot in the Isolation Ward for COVID-19

Advantages of Robotic Technology In Isolation Wards:

In the fight against COVID-19, nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers are on the front line of the battle being at a higher risk of infection. Personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage is one of the key factors increasing the infection risk for the medical and paramedical staff. Therefore, finding alternative ways to lower the infection risk has become an urgent problem to be solved. Using robotic technology and telemedicine to help the combat COVID-19 outbreak has gotten great attention for good reasons:

More robots and virtual meetings in the field mean less person-to-person contact, thus, lowering the risk of infection for healthcare workers

Using robots can also reduce community transmission and PPE consumption.


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The teleoperation system consists of a wearable initial motion capture device and a dual-arm collaborative robot. Using the motion capture device, the upper limb motion data of the healthcare worker can be obtained and used to control the robot arm motion remotely. A pair of data gloves are used to capture the finger motions and teleoperate the grippers.

The telepresence system is achieved by a tablet or computer attached to the front of the teleoperated robot. A Multi-Users Audio/Video Conference System for remote medical consultation is developed and deployed based on Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC). A voice wake-up function is developed to facilitate the patient’s operation, and it reduces the chance of contact between the patient and the robot. Furthermore, a deep neurons network is used to monitor the patient’s emotional states by deploying on the tablet computer.

The purpose of this system aims to block infections by reducing the chance of contact between the patients and the healthcare workers. With the two subsystems, the teleoperated robot can assist or even replace the medical staff to take care of patients in the isolation ward. In other words, the teleoperated robot becomes the healthcare worker’s eyes, ears, and body in the isolation ward without actually coming in contact with the patient.

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Technological advancements are being made across the country as tech innovators and entrepreneurs realize the demand and requirements of Artificial Intelligence in times of urgent need for medical care, pandemics, etc, especially as India has very few high-tech robotics firms that focus on healthcare. Such technologies could save hundreds of lives that are on the line right now and maybe in the upcoming future too.

The hospital robots that are developed for hospital disinfection, however, can play an important role during the Covid-19 pandemic. Disinfection robots provide an extra line of defense in healthcare settings. The use of robotics and automation also extends to research laboratories where they are used to automate manual, repetitive, and high-volume tasks so technicians and scientists can focus their attention on more strategic tasks that make discoveries happen faster.


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Using robotics in the medical field enables a high level of patient care, efficient processes in clinical settings, and a safe environment for patients and healthcare workers. Robots reduce workloads, so nurses and other caregivers can offer patients more empathy and human interaction, which can promote long-term well-being.

Service robots can also help with cleaning and disinfection. These may use ultraviolet (UV) light, hydrogen peroxide vapors, or air filtration to help reduce infection and to sanitize reachable places uniformly. A teleoperated robot can also help in disinfecting contaminated surfaces using UV light. Its goal is to help hospitals sanitize rooms and equipment, aiding in the fight against COVID-19 or any other issue so that things are well prepared in advance.

In conclusion, this newly designed telerobotic system combines the strengths of healthcare workers (expert knowledge of patient care) with the strengths of robotics (social distancing and capabilities to work in hazardous environments) to give the best outcome to patients and healthcare workers.


 

References

1. Yang, G., Lv, H., Zhang, Z. et al. Keep Healthcare Workers Safe: Application of Teleoperated Robot in Isolation Ward for COVID-19 Prevention and Control. Chin. J. Mech. Eng.33, 47 (2020). DOI: 10.1186/s10033-020-00464-0

2. Pallavi Pundir, Coronavirus Isolation Wards in India Might Soon Be Run by Robots, [Link]

3. Globaldata Thematic Research, Robotics in Medical (2021) – Medical Robotics Trends,

4. Intel Healthcare, Robotics in Healthcare

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