Skull-Drilling Robots and Patient Influencers: March 2017 Medical News

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So far, 2017 has been no stranger to medical innovation. Apart from engineering and physical technology developments, healthcare professionals are also exploring new ways to harness modern communication trends. To keep you in the loop, we’ve tracked some of the most exciting advancements in medical technology and health relations over the past month, including our thoughts about each below.


A team at Switzerland's ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research created a robot designed to drill narrow holes in the skull for the direct purpose of cochlear implants. What’s unique about this research is that the team only focused on one application through the duration of the project, honing in on this particular robot-assisted procedure. While it is still not fully automated, the robot has successfully assisted surgeons in this tight, difficult procedure on four patients. We expect to see the development of many more single-application robots like this one in the coming years. Focusing on one specific procedure allows the team to refine the precise aspects of the robot, and then expand the use cases once it’s been fully developed in its expert area.


Social media influencers aren’t just for fitness anymore. WIRED recently reported on the uptick of “patient influencers" in the medical world. Over the past five years, social media has thrust many everyday people into the spotlight, highlighting the content-driven influence of industry leaders. For medicine, patients turn to other patients who are documenting a similar journey to their own, posting anything from hospital selfies to in-depth treatment explanations. Of course, with this rise in influencers comes a bit of doubt in credibility and their personal biases. We see additional policy red tape and roadblocks down the line as more companies begin to utilize these influencers for product promotion. Most importantly, if you are a healthcare professional, make sure you’re keeping a pulse on these influencers and the top trends in social media, because it’s not going anywhere.


As robotic surgery becomes more common in the U.S., the race to improve them does as well. Last year, the Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) was created to provide an autonomous or semi-autonomous option to reduce human error. Once advanced enough, robots like this could provide warning signs on the location of the tissue and issues warnings to avoid causing damage. This month, Children's National Health System created a biocompatible 3D tracking system for use with the STAR, which can help the robot as it moves around shifting and deforming tissue.

There are many advancements that need to be made before these AI and machine learning robots can safely conduct surgery on humans, but we’re getting there. Recently, our CTO, Dr. Roger Smith, commented on the revolution of autonomous robots in Access AI, stating, “This technology could allow the robot to act as an assistant in surgery rather than just a tool.”

Whether it’s a social trend, medical news or a new invention, our experts are keeping track of what’s to come. Stay tuned for our next update on the dynamic healthcare field, or contact us to schedule a tour and see what innovations we have going on at our own facility.


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