Medical robots are helping doctors and other professionals save time, lower costs and shorten patient recovery times, but patients may not be ready. Our research into human perceptions of automated healthcare finds that people are wary of getting their healthcare from an automated system but that they can adjust to the idea—especially if it saves them money.
Hospitals and medical practices are already using a fair amount of automation. For instance, in one San Francisco hospital and other places, delivery robots–about the size of a mini-fridge–zip through the hallways delivering pills, bringing lunch to patients, and ferrying specimens and medical equipment to different labs. Some hospitals are set up for delivery robots to open remote-control doors and even use elevators to get around the building.
Robots can also assist with more complex tasks, like surgery. Their participation can range from simply helping stabilize a surgeon's toolsall the way to autonomously performing the entire procedure. Perhaps the most famous robotic surgery system lets a surgeon operate full-size, ergonomically friendly equipment as a remote control to direct extremely tiny instruments what to do inside a patient's body, often through extremely small incisions.