A fascinating thing about UX is that we can look in any direction and find applications of user experience in the most mundane or the most advanced projects one can come across. UX is known to save lives, make things better, and improve design. In healthcare, UX is pivotal in ensuring that the patients have the optimum resources available along with the best shot at recovery.
Robotics surgery is at the forefront of this innovation being carried out in the healthcare industry. With the ratio of healthcare professionals and patients on an unfavorable incline, robots and Ai are not only stepping in to fill the void but also offering accuracy and precision that completely takes out the scope for human error. In the USA, that means saving over 250,000 lives per year.
UX at the forefront of digital surgery
As important as the robots are in surgery, Ai is quickly adapting to the human needs of surgery.
The robots teamed with an effective Ai allow the surgeon to identify the issues with minimal invasion and provide a high definition view to ensure quicker, and more accurate surgical practices.
Recently, Synaptive conducted a user testing for a surgical Robot called Modus V. Modus V is a fully automated bot that is being tested to be used by neurosurgeons. The Modus V is equipped with a state of the art software and an Ai that is a machine learning pro. The team had to get down to UX 101 for the testing of Modus V and understand the problems faced by the surgeons in order to offer viable solutions. The positioning of the camera, automating the surgery through a mechanical arm, and providing the surgeons with the much-needed accuracy; all of this was the result of applying basic UX principles to complex surgery. The testing of Modus V was simply a robot-assisted surgery. But it showed the positive effects on what matters the most — the outcome of the surgery. The results for the patients were found to be much more positive with the use of assistive technology than without.
Surgical robot and design
Surgical robots are not only designed to assist with complex surgeries but are also being tested to conduct automated surgeries through AI and machine learning. The Children’s National Medical Center in Washington recently tested a supervised robot conducting an automated soft tissue surgery. The results were phenomenal and the results of the surgery were shown to be better than a human surgeon.
The project lead on the Smart-Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) states that the benefit of completely automated robots is well worth the investment. He notes that the availability of the right surgeons during emergencies will not hamper the quality of a surgery if automated robots become the norm for surgeries. Given that medical mistakes are known to be the third highest cause of death in the USA, automation seems to reduce the burden on human surgeons to be perfect all the time.
These surgical robots are now being designed with specific surgeries and techniques in mind, testing the surgeons for the requirements as well as the issues faced during the actual process of surgery.
The design of the AI is as important as the design of the robot itself. The program that allows the robot to be unsupervised or partially supervised needs to be very, very well designed due to the stakes at hand. In case of the automated surgery in STAR, the robot makes the decision of where sutures should go, based on vision and pressure. This is arguably more accurate than any human surgeon could manage and is only possible due to the strong program that enables the robot.
Benefits of well designed Ai in surgical robots
The interest in robotic surgery is rising and the reason is not simply novelty or success rates. There are various benefits which have been recorded through the recent testing and research that has been undertaken.
Automated robots are not humans, they learn through patterns and duplicate results immaculately. This completely takes away the risk of human error associated with surgery. This possibility in itself makes this technology worth exploring and expanding. Additionally, semi-assisted systems like the Da Vinci surgical system, which have been in use for around a decade in the surgical space, have proven to be one of the safest, minimally invasive ways to conduct surgery.
Surgical robots also tackle another major problem that the healthcare industry faces i.e. manpower planning. The doctor-patient ratio is steadily declining and robots are a great way to tackle that. Even with assisted systems, the surgeons spend relatively less time in surgery than in case of conducting the surgery manually. If the surgery is automated completely, manpower planning will be a non-issue very soon.
The benefits of surgical robots are abundant and evident, however, there are feasibility issues which can be worked upon with good UX practices. Even so, the evolution of UX in healthcare has resulted in the simplification of complex surgery and lower mortality rates already.
Kshitij is a VP of Experience Design at Koru. He is a passionate, self-organized individual who loves to practice lean UX for enterprise products. When he is not solving UX problems at home, he can be found soul-searching in the hills and gather great coffee blends to keep him supercharged.