IDC: Use of robots in healthcare on the rise, but drones still a ways off

By Tom Sullivan

Hospitals are planning to ramp up the use of robots in the next one to three years -- and the momentum will include clinical applications as well as automating simple tasks.

“Robots can deliver value by automating manual and laborious tasks,” IDC Health Insights research director Mutaz Shegewi said. “But they will also be increasingly adopted for direct clinical applications and emergent use cases.”

IDC investigated healthcare providers’ plans for both robots and drones. As of now, 31.3 percent of participants told IDC they have robots in action and the consultancy anticipates their use will become more common as healthcare entities better understand how they can automate processes, mitigate expenses and improve clinical care delivery.

The firm laid down a timeline of one to three years, during which adoption rates will increase for robots and three to five years for drones.

Whereas robots already have a foothold in healthcare, IDC found that, at least among the hospitals it queried, none of them are using drones today.

Low drone adoption is hardly surprising at this point. But early evidence of how they, too, can be used to improve clinical care came in a study wherein Swedish researchers found that drones carrying automated external defibrillators beat EMS respondents to rural heart attack victims by as much as 17 minutes.

Robots outpacing drones is something of a manufactured rivalry, of course, if only because the day will come when hospitals are putting both to work in different capacities. But as of now, at least according to IDC’s research, robots have the edge.