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Leveraging Robots/Artificial Intelligence in Surgeries and Medical Procedures

Sep 1, 2023

The surgical space has seen advancements through leveraging technology and employing artificial intelligence (AI). Such technology can yield far more efficient surgeries optimizing time, having the ability to reach and access harder areas of the human body, and, finally, leading to reduction of ‘human error.’  The health care industry has spent a significant amount of money in recent years to achieve cutting-edge advancements and this trend is only going to continue. 

A Harvard Medical School study1 from 2022 had test groups of patients having surgery, with about half of the procedures utilizing robotic assistance compared to the other half with fully manual surgery. The study showed the robotically-assisted surgery group had shorter lengths of hospital stay, lower pain scores after surgery and fewer complications when compared with the patients undergoing manual surgery. 

How Technology Is Impacting Patient Care 

Procedures with surgical advancements as a result of technology include knee replacement surgery and spinal surgery, as well as those using computer navigation software to customize the position of implants to optimize patient function. 

Spinal surgery is an area where technological advancements have been pivotal as far as accurate screw placement. Various technologies are available such as computer-assisted navigation, robotic-guided spine surgery and augmented surgical navigation. Given the area of the body, spinal surgery has risks related to vascular or neurologic complications which are partially mitigated as these advancements allow for improved screw placement accuracy.

While technically the AI-assist is demonstrating the ability to improve in various aspects, culturally, many patients are not fully comfortable with the idea of AI, as many still prefer a surgeon’s hands. AI is being leveraged in the radiology space, to read X-rays, but it does not catch everything, and it can misread imaging. It is critical to continue to have the discretion of the human eye. Additionally, part of the medical procedure process is the patient care: the returning of phone calls made by patients in recovery as follow-up care -- sometimes months after the completion of the procedure. 

Health care in totality will also be driven and run by people, similar to other industries. Thus, health care in its entirety cannot be handled simply through AI. And with such a focus on the advancement of technology, accounting students have asked professionals at events if there is a future of the profession or will it succumb to AI. The answer is the same in both professions: While the advancement of technology will be pivotal to the health care industry and for auditors, human subjectivity and the involvement with patients and clients alike will be critical for the success and the future altogether.

1Comparing traditional and robotic-assisted surgery for prostate cancer - Harvard Health

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Michele Epstein

Michele Epstein is a Senior Audit Manager working with a wide range of private and publicly held companies. Michele is responsible for the supervision and review of staff and work product, including detailed testing.

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