Prof. Zbigniew Nawrat for PMR: Do the robots!

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The need for distance, closure, protection from meeting with another person, at the same time creates the need to verify the way health services are provided and patients are treated, says Prof. Zbigniew Nawrat, expert in medical robotics, in an interview with PMR.

Robotics and telemedicine will gain in importance

The dramatic situation caused by the development of the COVID-19 pandemic has thoroughly verified common courts of law about what is really important – in life, in the economy, in medicine.

– Engineers’ time is back. After all, it was they who laid the foundations of the industrial civilisation we are the beneficiaries of. And they are today a chance to make breakthrough inventions, solve the resulting dilemmas and difficulties. The time when the relationship with another person creates a risk – we will remember it as the motto of 2020. In this respect, the need for distance, closure, protection from meeting with another person, at the same time creates the need to verify the way health services are provided and patients are treated. Telemedicine and robots in treatment specialties are a partial solution here, because they allow for effective remote action – emphasises Professor Zbigniew Nawrat, expert in medical robotics.

Medical robots not only in surgical procedures

The introduction of a procedure to isolate anyone who had contact with a person infected with COVID-19 virus caused a cascade reaction in the health service, more clinics, wards, hospitals disappear. There are no hands to work.  Medical robots are not only diagnostics, rehabilitation and therapy. It’s not just da Vinci used in complex surgical procedures. The robots are already used in medical and nursing logistics, where they help the staff by performing simple tasks such as transport or room disinfection.

– For 20 years now, I have been repeating that the demographic changes taking place, the lack of the right number of medical personnel and the need to raise the standards of services provided in hospitals, clinics and social care homes are global trends that force greater involvement in the field of medical robotics, including the development of artificial intelligence. Today, it is enough to listen to information channels from all over the world to end – just like in the classic command process: what was to be shown, that is: Let’s do the robots! Because next time, robots can save us – concludes Prof. Nawrat.

The technological leap thanks to COVID-19

Europe creates opportunities for small and larger entrepreneurs, e.g. by supporting projects through business hubs such as Digital Innovation Hub Healthcare Robotics HERO. It efficiently reallocates funds to new objectives such as support for solutions directly related to reducing the effects of the spreading crisis.

– The consequence of the coronavirus epidemic, and thus a factor of development, will be a technological leap forward that medicine will make. Not without significance is also the role of managers of medical entities, who will make the right decisions about the implementation of such solutions and their skilful implementation. In the era of a spreading pandemic, limited resources, it becomes clear that classical surgery will, as in the rest of the world, give way to robotically supported surgery in Poland, and robot systems will play an increasing role in operating theatres and patient care. This is a very good and important step, not only for medicine in general, but for patients in particular – says Joanna Szyman, President of the Board of the Szpital na Klinach, part of the NEO Hospital Group.

Artificial intelligence: The next step after robotic medicine

In the context of the dynamically developing robotisation of surgery, we cannot avoid discussing artificial intelligence. Today, almost every one of us has his or her own wanted or unwanted electronic profile, defining precisely our individual or social behaviour. The same is happening with the growing database of static examinations, where x-Rays or CTs, documentation of microscopic examinations, documentation of skin, endoscopic and other lesions, are collected and analysed by self-learning programs, and all this is done to make a diagnosis. Currently, these are only auxiliary programs, but soon their accuracy will be much better than our human capabilities.

In a generational perspective, doctors will use technology based on artificial intelligence and analysis of large databases as an auxiliary device, where the doctor will receive system prompts. However, it will continue to be the doctor alone who will decide on the treatment method.

Autonomous systems will replace humans?

How the global social structure will develop, including medicine after 2050, is a big unknown. Most of us believe that artificial intelligence will develop to the level of human intellect. Therefore, it is high time to create a legal framework to prevent unethical use of technology, including in medicine.

 – I am convinced that the current intensive robotisation of surgery is leading us towards autonomous systems. Already today, the databases of arm movements of surgical robots are being gathered and thus systems are being created that can already perform certain activities on their own. However, for legal reasons, the independent work of robots is still not a reality in medicine. There are also known Polish companies building robots, which participate in projects to build autonomous medical systems. The market does not like vacuum, and sooner or later the law will have to sanction artificial intelligence in medicine, so we can treat autonomous systems as the next step, after the robotisation of medicine – says Prof. Wojciech K. Karcz, PhD.

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