Medical robots aid in surgery, treatment and diagnosis in Chinese hospitals

World Today

Artificial intelligence is becoming a driving force in improving our lives. Robots, for instance, are making their way into hospitals, and they’re often helping make the difference between life and death. CGTN’s Frances Kuo explains.

Last year, an unusual student passed China’s national medical licensing exam – a robot.

It was developed by Beijing’s Tsinghua University. Researchers acknowledge the robot still has a way to go before it qualifies as a full-blown doctor, but it’s been a big help in treatment and diagnosis.

Also in the capital, at PLA General Hospital, robot arms are used to aid in surgery. “Our robots are fully booked,” said Dr. Liu Rong, a surgeon at the hospital. “They’re involved in two to three surgeries every day.”

Dr. Rong – who pioneered the robotic technology at PLA General Hospital – performs non-invasive surgery on malignant liver, pancreatic and gall bladder disease. The robots don’t do anything on their own, but are an extension of a surgeon’s arms, hands, and feet.

“The robots offer a high-definition, 3-D visualization that allows me to see fine and atomic detail during the procedure,” Dr. Rong explained.

And because robots are able to make smaller, more precise incisions, patients lose less blood during surgery and are able to recover faster.

Robots have also made their way into dental offices. A bot in the Chinese city of Xi’An completed a one-hour operation while doctors monitored on the sidelines, and researchers said it operated more accurately than experienced dentists.

Concerns do surround this technology, not least the price tag. The system at Beijing’s PLA General Hospital costs $2 million, which may not be a feasible option for all hospitals. And some question whether technology equates quality.

But robots have been an asset to doctors on the job, especially amid the backdrop of China’s doctor shortage. It’s part of a booming industry in artificial intelligence, buffeted by internet giants Alibaba and Tencent.

The international data corporation predicts China’s market for AI healthcare services will reach $930 million in 2022, raising the question of which barriers bots will break next.

Dr. Joel Selanikio discusses robots in healthcare

For more on the role of AI and robotics in medicine, CGTN’s Mike Walter spoke with award-winning physician Dr. Joel Selanikio. He’s also the CEO and co-founder of Magpi.