The reach of the fourth industrial revolution can be felt in almost every industry. Its impact can also be clearly felt in the health sector. Just a week ago, Hwang got artificial joint replacements in both legs. I came here because I heard it did robotic surgery." This surgical robot enables surgeons to do knee or hip replacements using 3D computer imaging based on a CT scan, making the robot remove the areas of bone as mapped out by the surgeons.
Artificial intelligence and robotics spell massive changes to the world of work. These technologies can automate new tasks, and we are making more of them, faster, better and cheaper than ever before. Surgery was early to the robotics party: Over a third of U.S. hospitals have at least one surgical robot. Such robots have been in widespread use by a growing variety of surgical disciplines, including urology and gynecology, for over a decade. That means the technology has been around for least two generations of surgeons and surgical staff.
In an age of self-driving cars, 'robot surgery' and computers capable of trouncing human players in hugely-complex games such as Chess or Go, it seems obvious to many that the automation of Wall Street, the City of London, Frankfurt and other financial centres must be imminent. It is assumed that Artificial intelligence (AI) will shortly consign the stock picker and fund manager to the same historical oblivion as the textile weaver. Now it is quite true that AI has great potential in financial services, of which more in a moment. But in the here and now, the exaggerated expectations of technophile observers have, alas, to be gently let down. When this happens, the reaction of these observers is frequently to swing to the other extreme, and complain that the financial services industry is failing to take advantage of AI and is stuck in a technological dark age.
Robotic surgeons are on the march. Across the NHS they are taking over thousands of operations from their human counterparts for prostate cancer or kidney and bladder surgery. Science fiction has become science fact. The machines, with their pinpoint-accurate computer-controlled arms, are being introduced in the belief that they can perform minute surgical tasks such as cutting and stitching far more effectively than quiver-fingered humans, and with less risk of bleeding from excessive incisions or poor suturing. There are now around 60 such robots, of a type called'da Vinci', in NHS hospitals.
Since Intuitive Surgical's da Vinci system earned the FDA nod in 2000, the company has enjoyed a sizable head start in the minimally invasive robotic surgery field. Competition has been brewing for years, from players large and small, but 2018 could be the year the market finally sees a shake-up. North Carolina's TransEnterix scored an FDA nod for its Senhance system in October, triggering a 75% bump in its stock price. The device, a rare new entrant to the robotic abdominal surgery market, is designed to make it easier to perform laparoscopic surgery. It is cleared for colorectal and gynecological surgery and features haptic feedback, so the surgeon can "feel" the tissue that the robotic arm is touching.
Whether it's tracking brain activity in the operating room, seismic vibrations during an earthquake, or biodiversity in a single ecosystem over a million years, measuring the frequency of an occurrence over a period of time is a fundamental data analysis task that yields critical insight in many scientific fields. But when it comes to analyzing these time series data, researchers are limited to looking at pieces of the data at a time to assemble the big picture, instead of being able to look at the big picture all at once. In a new study, MIT researchers have developed a novel approach to analyzing time series data sets using a new algorithm, termed state-space multitaper time-frequency analysis (SS-MT). SS-MT provides a framework to analyze time series data in real-time, enabling researchers to work in a more informed way with large sets of data that are nonstationary, i.e. when their characteristics evolve over time. It allows researchers to not only quantify the shifting properties of data but also make formal statistical comparisons between arbitrary segments of the data.
Robotics surgeries may currently be an expensive proposition for hospitals, but robots and artificial intelligence will certainly play a major role in the healthcare sector in the future. Several startups such as DiFacto Robotics, SigTuple and Aindra are working to bring new technologies to reality in India. A group of top executives from hospital chains, investment firms and startups discussed the future of healthcare at the News Corp VCCircle Healthcare Investment Summit, held in Mumbai recently. Sign up for our daily newsletter to get our top reports & videos.
The internet hummed last week with reports that "Humans Still Make Better Surgeons Than Robots." Stanford University Medical Center set off the tweetstorm with its seemingly scathing report on robotic surgery. When reading the research of 24,000 patients with kidney cancer, I concluded that the problem lied with the humans overcharging patients versus any technology flaw. In fact, the study praised robotic surgery for complicated procedures and suggested the fault lied with hospitals unnecessarily pushing robotic surgery for simple operations over conventional methods, which led to "increases in operating times and cost." Dr. Benjamin Chung, the author of the report, stated that the expenses were due to either "the time needed for robotic operating room setup" or the surgeon's "learning curve" with the new technology.
A form of robotic-guided spine surgery results in a five-fold reduction in surgical complications and a seven-fold reduction in revision surgeries compared to freehand methods. That's according to investigators presenting interim results of a multi-center prospective study that includes 379 spine surgery patients. Prospective studies track cohorts over time. The results are welcome news for medical device companies specializing in robotics. A 2015 study tracking injuries and deaths related to robotic surgeries suggested that such instances were being underreported, despite widespread assumptions that robotic-guided surgeries mitigated many of the risks associated with freehand surgeries.