The Future of Hospitals Will be Robotic

We like to think that people who work at hospitals do everything they can to save patients – and they do. The problem is that humans make mistakes. In fact, mistakes are so common in hospitals that a simple checklist can increase the care a patient receives. Robots, and computers, on the other hand easily follow checklists.

As we build better robotic systems (like autonomous cars and planes) we are building machines that perform tasks better than humans. In the world of health care we’re seeing that now and the speed at which robotic systems out perform humans will only increase. It means that the care you receive at a hospital will be better and more robotic.

There are programs to make diagnoses based on a series of questions, and algorithms inform many treatments used now by doctors.

Surgeons are already using robots in the operating theatre to assist with surgery. Currently, the surgeon remains in control with the machine being more of a slave than a master. As the machines improve, it will be possible for a trained technician to oversee the surgery and ultimately for the robot to be fully in charge.

Hospitals will be very different places in 20 years. Beds will be able to move autonomously transporting patients from the emergency room to the operating theatre, via X-ray if needed.

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How Racing Cars Helps Babies

For the most part, Formula 1 is just entertainment, but every now and then something really nifty comes out of it. Using models and algorithms developed to monitor an F1 car’s performance, some engineers figured out how to apply them to hospitals.

During a Formula 1 race, a car sends hundreds of millions of data points to its garage for real-time analysis and feedback. So why not use this detailed and rigorous data system elsewhere, like … at children’s hospitals? Peter van Manen tells us more. (Filmed at TEDxNijmegen.)

Sterilizing Medical Equipment with the Sun

When people think of solar power they tend to look at solar heating or solar electricity which makes a lot of sense. Now some researchers at Rice University have found a way to harness the power of the sun for sterilizing medical equipment in the developing world.

The Capteur Soleil, a device designed decades ago by French inventor Jean Boubour, was modified at Rice two years ago for use as a solar-powered cookstove for places where electricity — or fuel of any kind — is hard to get.

This year, Team Sterilize modified it further. When a set of curved mirrors and an insulated box containing the autoclave are installed, the steel A-frame sitting outside Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen becomes something else entirely — a lifesaver

The system produces steam by focusing sunlight along a steel tube at the frame’s apex. Rather than pump steam directly into the autoclave, the Rice team’s big idea was to use the steam to heat a custom-designed conductive hotplate.

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Check Marks to Save Lives

An article on the CBC’s website today mentions that intensive care units in Toronto will be using a checklist to ensure the best medical care for patients. Yes, a checklist.

It’s one of three ICU checklists Dr. Damon Scales has adopted in his Toronto hospital.

“When I tell people about these things they sort of have the reaction of saying, ‘How could you ever forget that?’ said the clinical associate in the department of critical care medicine at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “But this is a busy place with complicated patients and these are the kinds of things that can get lost in the shuffle.”

It’s such a simple solution that most people don’t think the checklist is real. In December the New Yorker ran an article on how checklists are the best thing to happen to medicine since, well, seemingly forever. The New Yorker article is a great read.

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