We have come a long way since Hippocrates of Cos first laid the foundation for modern medicine as we know it today – ever since that fateful journey of discovery, millennia ago, science and the art of healing have been forever entwined, with the number of discoveries and technological breakthroughs in medicine seemingly increasing exponentially with each year;
What then, does the future hold for us? This article will look at some of the most promising new technologies which look set to change the medical landscape even further in coming years…
Robots are an every-day part of today’s world – so many of the products we use, from the smallest MP3 player to the roomiest 4×4, are crafted on automated robotic assembly lines: these machines do not tire, can operate much quicker than a team of humans and often, can achieve a level of precision which would be near impossible to replicate manually;
It used to be the case that a surgeon’s skill would be judged on how speedily and accurately a procedure could be carried out – at one point in time, with a lack of adequate anesthesia, a swift and well placed incision was the difference between life and death;
These days, surgeons can be much more ambitious with the type of procedures they can carry out successfully, however, no matter how steady a surgeon’s hands are, there are certain levels of precision required in more delicate procedures which can be extremely risky without the assistance of calibrated machinery;
For some time now, machinery has assisted surgeons – technologies such as the ‘da Vinci surgical system’, by Intuitive Surgical look set to pave the way for ever more advanced robotic systems:
The ‘da Vinci’ robot
Named after the famous renaissance-man and (commonly believed) father of the first robot, the da Vinci system allows surgeons to remotely control a series of arms which house various tools and stereoscopic optics, which link up to a console to allow for a full 3D view of the surgery; this system incorporates various vibration dampening and scaling techniques to interpret the operator’s hand movements whilst filtering out any shakiness – resulting in a steady, controllable platform from which the procedures can be carried out;
At present, over one thousand units of the da Vinci system are in operation around the world – the benefits of such a system are plain to see for all those who have benefited from its’ adoption;
Fully automated automatons?
Systems such as the ‘da Vinci’ robot are one step closer towards a totally automated system – Is this the path which we want to be going down?
The answer will most likely depend on how advanced and reliable the decision-making software will become which would be replacing the human surgeon operator and how comfortable the public will be in placing their lives and health in the claws of a machine;
Current systems, like the ‘da Vinci’ robot, are operated via an almost ‘fly-by-wire’ filtering of human interaction in which the intent and knowledge of the surgeon is filtered through a machine…it is still ‘your life in their hands’, it is just now that the hands are not made of flesh and bone, however, the brain may soon be silicone-based in coming years – in the quest to remove human error altogether, the only challenge would be ensuring that machine error is not going to replace it…
The futuristic science-fiction movie, ‘Prometheus’ (2012, 20th Century Fox), features a fully automated ‘med-pod’ which comes pre-programmed with thousands of surgical procedures – all that a user has to do is select their programme and jump in – the machine will do the rest…is this a vision of the future of things to come, or something which we will never accept? – Either way, we can expect the future to contain more and more robots – these are likely to be responsible for healing us, rather than taking over the world!
Isaac Hildebrandt is a specialist Physiotherapist who is passionate about what he does: “Physiotherapist are a vital part of a strong healthcare system – we are in a position now where Physiotherapy Jobs are becoming increasingly popular career choices for those who want to make a difference in the quality of peoples’ lives”