Telemedicine is a field that uses telecommunications technology to provide healthcare at a distance. Certain computer systems can be linked to a physician’s office for diagnostic purposes. Different clinics and hospitals can be linked together. In the future, telemedicine could be used to perform robotic surgeries in space.
Some forms of telemedicine have been in use since the 1970s. Interest in the field of minimally invasive surgical procedures led to the development of surgical robots in the late 1980s. Transcontinental surgery has actually become a reality to some degree. New medical procedures might be preformed in space.
This opens up new opportunities for long-term space missions. Space colonists would not need to worry about being able to provide adequate healthcare resources for their colonies. Remote controlled machinery could take over the job of a human surgeon. No one would have to worry if the unspeakable were to happen to the doctor on a mission.
Weightlessness brings with it a certain set of challenges for surgical teams. Robots could overcome these challenges. Perhaps the most interesting opportunities come from the lack of educational opportunities in space. Children descended from space colonists could easily benefit from telementoring. Medical training can already be delivered remotely. Consultancy telemedicine allows for individuals that experience communications problems to continue to use this technology. Perhaps this is the future of medical care as we move closer to exoplanetary colonization and exploration in the years ahead.
Researchers from SRI International conducted the first-ever robotic surgery demonstration in a simulated zero-gravity environment.
Himpens J (2012). Surgery in space: the future of robotic telesurgery (Haidegger T, Szandor J, Benyo Z. Surg Endosc 2011; 25(3):681-690). Surgical Endoscopy, 26 (1) PMID: 21858579
Image Credit: A.Pollinger
More Learning Resources:
- ‘Open-Source’ Robotic Surgery Platform Going To Top Medical Research Labs (medicalnewstoday.com)
- An Open Source Robotic Surgeon Could Save Your Life (ostatic.com)
- DistalMotion’s Surgical Tool Combines the Best of Robotic and Endoscopic Surgery (medgadget.com)
- Robotic surgery shouldn’t be universally dismissed (kevinmd.com)
- Robotic surgeries costlier but safer – Study (vanguardngr.com)
- iRobot targeting robots for telemedicine (nextbigfuture.com)
Frost & Sullivan Unveils Top 20 Telehealth Markets at the 2012 Digital Health …San Francisco Chronicle (press release).
In the near future a surgery may require one surgeon, two nurses or an anesthesiologist. This technique is known as telesurgery. One of the major disadvantages of telesurgery is latency.
The company originally had long-distance (telesurgery) in mind, but this idea, though feasible, was not well-accepted. The Doctor of the Future, 1 May 2009, FastCompany.com.
We’re already seeing truly innovative international telepresence collaboration in telesurgery, a field the Technavio report predicted would continue to expand. In September, a Kenyan patient underwent the African nation’s first telesurgery procedure. Specialists in India … in real-time through telepresence? It sounds impossible, but with telepresence widely available, it could be the wave of the future!