Bring out the Medical Robots

The world was already crazy enough before the pandemic hit. Fast paced, high tech, and an over reliance on social media and technology to replace real, human connection. Once upon a time, and not that long ago, we were encouraged to turn off our devices. Or track our screen time to understand just how addicted we were to technology. It felt strange to make eye contact or, gasp, pick up the phone to call someone.

And now, after being forced into varying degrees of social isolation, many of us are feeling starved for the very thing that we voluntarily replaced with technology, human connection. I’m one of those people. I miss being around people. So it might seem strange that I’m an advocate for medical robots.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the inability to consistently and accurately test for Covid-19 has been a big problem. Recently we heard on the news that in some places testing would be limited. The primary reason behind this was to preserve the personal protective equipment (PPE) that health care workers are required to wear when collecting the samples. The PPE is in high demand and it’s prioritized to help patients who are gravely ill.

And yet, the testing is critically important to gather the data required to understand what’s really going on. So many questions about the novel coronavirus still remain to be answered, but without data, we can’t really know the whole story. When I heard about the lack of testing, I had a hard time understanding why nobody has built a medical robot to help out with this kind of task.

Why not have robots collecting samples at designated testing sites? Robots can work around the clock, offering services 24/7 which would help to reduce long lines and overcrowding. Robots can be designed to self-disinfect in between every sample. And equally important, robots can be programmed to collect data consistently, eliminating common data entry mistakes.

I don’t write this to diminish the work performed by health care professionals for whom I have an enormous amount of respect, especially nurses. I could never do what a nurse does; I get queasy at the sight of my own blood and even a whiff of diarrhea makes me want to barf. But in cases like this, why not delegate some of the routine, high-risk tasks to a reliable, tireless work source who can’t get infected?

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