Picture the scene. You visit the hospital for your pre-op appointment a week or so before your surgery is scheduled. When the consultant comes in he gets straight down to business and starts explaining how the procedure will work. So far, so normal. Then you do a double-take. You pinch yourself. You seriously think about making a run for it. Because the doctor who will perform your surgery is a robot.
It may sound far-fetched, but surgeons and the NHS are under ever-increasing pressures to reduce costs, deliver efficiencies and look after an aging population. Hospitals are already using technology to speed up surgical procedures and reduce inpatient staying times. Is it really a step too far to suggest that surgery should be automated completely?
The human body is made up of moving and static parts that work together to make you a functioning person, in the same way that a car is made up of parts that work together to take you from A to B. For a long time cars were painstakingly built by humans but these days the automotive industry has been transformed by the introduction of the robot mechanic. Technological developments already allow medical professionals to replicate and replace many body parts that can prolong life and reduce the need for ongoing medical interventions or repair – is it time to develop that potential further to create robot surgeons?
Think of all the time and money the NHS spends on training surgeons. If a robot could be designed and built to perform the same tasks wouldn’t it be a cheaper and more efficient option in the long-term and provide greater return on investment?
Maybe it’s worth considering some of the benefits offered by robotic and human techniques to surgical procedures.
Robodoc – the advantages
- Robot surgeons save the time and money it takes to train a human surgeon. A robot surgeon will provide immediate return on investment instantly, whereas a human surgeon needs to take time to train, develop their skills and gain experience
- Robot surgeons can carry out complex surgery in dangerous situations such as war zones quite safely. They can work where people are in danger, without their performance being affected physically or emotionally. Sending a robot surgeon to a place where there is conflict could protect the skills, expertise and life of a human surgeon.
- Many surgical procedures are considered to be mainstream and repetitive and are performed by junior doctors who are ‘learning’ on the job. Using robots to carry out these procedures instead could speed up the process, reduce waiting times, and create efficiencies.
Human Doc – the advantages
- Humans have the unique ability to feel emotion and empathy. Consequently, human Surgeons care for the sick and always work hard to make patients get better. A human surgeon knows instinctively when something is right or wrong and is able to make difficult decisions, sometimes between life and death. This gives them a distinct advantage over a machine.
- Human surgeons have surgical skill and expertise, but they also have a lot of other assets that make them well suited to their work. These include the ability to solve problems, think outside the box, make informed decisions, learn from past experiences and benefit from personal development to shape their current practice.
- Human surgeons are used to communicating with their patients and are equipped to answer their questions and explain any further treatment or post-op procedures that may be required. Imagine emerging groggily from the anaesthetic to discover you’re being addressed by an android – you might not feel very reassured or comfortable!
Science is always looking for ways of improving what we do and how we can make things better. Technology is advancing at a rate that makes it possible for the far-fetched and fantastical to become science fact rather than science fiction. So will you one day find that your wait for a routine operation is a matter of hours rather than weeks, months or even years and then discover your surgeon is Robodoc? You’ll have to wait and see..
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