Healthcare needs more people and help from robots
As industrial robots have done in the last decade, healthcare robots will develop explosively in the next few years. This development is driven by labour shortages in nursing and healthcare personnel across Europe and by a growing population of older people. This is why Odense – Europe’s robotics city – is firmly focussed on the interplay between healthcare and new technologies. During this month, experts and professionals gathered in Odense at Week of Health and Innovation, a two-day international knowledge festival, to create and exchange valuable knowledge and insight into the development of tomorrow’s healthcare technologies.
In the Danish city of Odense, a strong robotics cluster collaborates closely with the life science cluster to break down barriers and make it easier to roll out user-friendly technology in hospitals. The Mayor of the city of Odense in Denmark, Peter Rahbæk Juel believes robotics and automation are essential tools in healthcare:
A lack of qualified labour is a massive challenge in almost every sector in Denmark and in the rest of the world. As a society, we want to take care of our population, especially the elderly, who have created the wealth we benefit from today. We need to find suitable technologies to take care of our ageing population.
What does the future of healthcare look like?
Last past week, Odense hosted the 8th edition of WHINN, a yearly international conference on life science and healthcare technology. Over 600 participants from the public and private sector gathered to create better health innovation and improve future healthcare. Participants learned, listened and discussed robotics in healthcare, future citizens at home, the green transition, artificial intelligence, and digital ethics.
Healthcare robots will undergo the same development as industrial robots did during the past decades.
By joining forces, we can ensure that we achieve acceleration within this field in Denmark, and we should use our unique potential to lead the way. I want to encourage close collaboration across hospitals, patients, and developers; The most successful solutions are created when we involve end users from the beginning.
There is strong trust in Denmark between the public healthcare sector and private start-ups, and there are many collaborations between private and public partners, universities, and research institutions. This mutual trust has allowed exponential growth in Danish HealthTech start-ups and produced excellent solutions.
Tech scouting at Capra Robotics
In 2021, a brand new Centre for Clinical Robotics (CCR) was established in Odense in Denmark by the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Southern Denmark and Odense University Hospital (OUH). CCR facilitates collaboration between clinicians and robotics companies and helps to identify, evaluate and deliver robot projects to the hospital.
From a global perspective, it’s unique how we in Denmark are able to develop and test new robotic solutions in hospitals in close collaboration with hospital staff and patients.
Søren Udby expects that robots and automation solutions can help relieve and free clinicians from having to carry out heavy physical lifting and monotonous, repetitive tasks, so that they can instead carry out more patient-centric quality tasks for the benefit of patients:
One example is the laboratory field, where finding qualified applicants for vacant positions is particularly challenging. Robots and cobots can step in and take over some of the routine tasks and automate workflows, thus freeing up staff so they can take care of the more demanding and complex tasks. Another example is from the pathology field, where until last year, thousands of glass slides were manually filed, sorted, requisitioned, and discarded daily. At OUH alone, this required four full-time positions. A new, automated filing robot has freed up these four bioanalysts and reduced the requisition time for one glass slide from 8 minutes to 8 seconds! The Department of Clinical Pathology developed the robot in collaboration with SDU and The Region of Southern Denmark.
ARTHUR automates the scanning of patients’ hands
Several kinds of robots developed in Denmark are already used in the healthcare sector today. For example, the UVD robot from Blue Ocean Robotics can disinfect to eliminate viruses. A rehabilitation robot from Life Science Robotics is helping patients regain mobility after they have suffered strokes. Health drones will soon be transporting blood samples. Autonomous mobile robots automate many internal logistic tasks and deliveries from the central sterile supply departments.
Artificial intelligence will play a significant role in diagnosing and using robots in the operating room. One of Denmark’s most recent healthcare robotics inventions is the ARTHUR robot from ROPCA, which can fully automate the scanning of patients’ hands for rheumatoid arthritis – without a clinician present. ARTHUR sends the results and images to the doctor, who then verifies the robot’s prognosis. The robot frees a specialist from many routine scans.
In a study with ARTHUR and 25 patients, 92% concluded that they would accept ARTHUR as a permanent part of their rheumatologist follow-up. In other words, robots like this could play a role in solving the problem of the shortage in skilled labour:
ARTHUR has enormous potential. Suddenly, we have an expert available that can do ultrasound scans all the time without being dependent on staff or the level of expertise among the doctors
You can set up robots almost anywhere, which means that a medical examination will no longer risk being a ‘postcode lottery’. The robot will perform the scan in the same way with the same quality every time, whether it’s in Esbjerg or Copenhagen
Five essential features
Birgitte Østergaard Sørensen has identified five technologies that could pave the way for more hospital robots. Increasing automated solutions in hospitals require technologies that enable robots to:
1) Understand their surroundings
2) Communicate their intentions
3) Adhere to social norms
4) Be controlled without touch
5) Move safely
ARTHUR – THE FUTURE OF SCANNING
Key organizations in Denmark’s stimulating environment for health technology innovation
Danish Life Science Cluster, CareNet, Region Syddanmark, Technology in Practice , Danish Care, CIMT – Centre for Innovative Medical Technology, Healthcare DENMARK, OUH Odense Universitetshospital – Svendborg Sygehus, Syddansk Sundhedsinnovation, CCR – Centre for Clinical Robotics, CAI-X – Centre for Clinical AI, Center for Offentlig-Privat Innovation (CO-PI), FORCE Technology, RAIN – Regional AI Network, Knowledge Centre for Assisted Living Technology , Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, Copenhagen Healthtech Cluster
Future events in Denmark in the field of healthcare and robotics
November 2022: CareWare
November 2022: AI & BIG DATA – LIFE SCIENCE
May 2023: Health & Rehab 2023
November 2023: WHINN 2023
Rasmus Torpegaard Festersen
INVESTMENT MANAGER - ROBOTICS & DRONES
My drive is to help foreign companies in the robotics, drone, tech and automation industry to establish in Odense and connect them to relevant business partners and opportunities in the City of Odense. My background is within business, sports and leadership in tech – and my knowledge and network are there to help you.