Paper: Healthcare and Robotics: Opportunities and Risks

Paper: Healthcare and Robotics: Opportunities and Risks

December 15, 2016.
       Yassine EL BAHLOULI – JSGS – UofR –
       Javeria Rani – JSGS – UofR – 


Healthcare robots are transforming the fields of medicine worldwide. The International Robot Association defines an industrial robot as an “automatically controlled reprogrammable, multifunctional manipulator with at least three programmable axes which may be either fixed in place or mobile for use in industrial automation applications”(ISO 8373: 1994).

Service robots are designed to support, accompany and provide healthcare to patients, by collaborating with humans who are working around them. This essay provides an overview of robotic for health care, focusing on various opportunities and risks that these technologies give rise to.

This analysis concerns the organizational and financial level, the impact on employees and patients.

We have concluded that patients and their families are cautious to a humanoid robot at the bedside and that employees are ready to accept the presence of these machines in their environment but only for some support tasks and without taking over the place of health professionals.


Actually, Robots perform variety of functions in hospitals such as food delivery. Other robots are built to help patients in moving out from their beds, for indirect patient care and home healthcare.


  • What are the organizational implications of using Robots in hospitals keeping in view human and financial resources?
  • What will be the impact on employees?
  • How robotics will impact patients in this hospital?
PeTIr, pronounced Peter, is a robot, an In Touch Health RP-7i, his goal is to transform the delivery of acute care in the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region (RQHR).


In order to find answers to the above questions we have chosen a Qualitative research approach through interviews conducted with three employees in Regina General Hospital:

  • A Director in Regina General Hospital. (Employee 1)
  • A Manager in Regina General Hospital. (Employee 2)
  • A Communications Consultant – Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region. (Employee 3)

Approach to analyzing qualitative data:

We have decided to adopt the inductive approach as it involves analyzing data with no predetermined theory, structure or framework and uses the actual data itself to derive the structure of analysis.

Interview transcripts:


Q1: What are the organizational implications of using Robots in hospitals keeping in view human and financial resources?

Q2: Imagine from 10 years now, half of colleagues working along you will be robots. For Example, they are doing service delivery tasks such as delivering food to patients from hospital kitchen to patient’s room. How do you feel in such environment?

Q3: As in some countries, Robotics have clearly great impacts on patients. If your hospital is acquainted with robotics in near future what do you think, how robotics will affect patients in this hospital.

The following A1, A2 and A3 are the answers to Q1, Q2 and Q3 ordered by interviewee.

Employee 1 Answers:

Employee 1 A1: Very interesting as we can imagine the presence of these machines will enhance the efficiency and reducing human mistakes in support activities like delivering supplies, meals to patients, pushing heavy loads. This presence will permit the reorientation of employees to do interesting tasks with a high benefit.

For the organization, it is beneficial to have the machines doing these tasks, as robots do not need paid holidays, sick leave, and injury leave or to be paid for extra hours. Machines can work 24 hours without getting tired and their maintenance period are predictable.

Employee 1 A2: I do not think that will be tough, as we will be prepared to accept the presence of robots. I will consider them like machines, not colleagues as they miss this human being level. However, I think that it is useful to use robots for tasks that employees would not or could not do. It is very important to limit their roles to these tasks with no direct added-value to the main specialty of an hospital.

The unions perhaps will resist to replacing employees by robots as they will lose money and memberships but solutions will be find.

Employee 1 A3: The Patients will adopt the concept but it will take a while for patients to accept the presence of Robots in hospitals. At the beginning, it will be easy for them to deal with robots in the reception, for information roles, verification of health card, orientation. It depend of how we educate people and we prepare them to welcome the robots.

We have to explain to citizens that machines use is reducing the human mistakes and increasing efficiency in certain tasks.

Employee 2 Answers:

Employee 2 A1: Robotics can be cost effective if used effectively. However, being new technology like any other new technology that comes into market is costly. Robots should be used beyond moving patients and serving food to patients such as they can be used for diagnostics. For example, in her previous job robots were used to perform various functions in pharmacy.

Although they can be employed to do many physical tasks efficiently but cost associated with repairing of robots is higher than the cost of other equipment that are currently used. It requires more money to fix them

Employee 2 A2: This is a fearful situation that will stress us that who else is going to lose the job if robots are introduced in our hospital, Will it be my colleague or me. Our jobs are at risk. It raises concerns about job security and our future. What we will do without a job.

How we will live a life without some work. It will have social and economic implications. It will give rise to other issues such as unemployment, depression, mental health, drug use and increase in poverty.

However, do if robots jobs at lower level than work will be done efficiently, and may supported quiet easily by staff. Regarding our new colleagues as robots, I think it will not work because I am a very social person, do discussions and decision-making process with my colleagues both on professional issues and on personal issues such as family dynamics. So robots are unable to do so, this is not a logical solution.

Employee 2 A3: I think total replacement of medical staff will be negative for patients. In addition, robots lack human touch to support patients, who wants to have their feelings shared through conversation with their doctors. Recovery is not just about operations and surgery get done, patients do certain things cognitively and need some experienced person to comfort them.

For their treatment and recovery, social well-being such as kindness, humaneness and adaptedness of people to support them is very important.

Employee 3 Answers:

Employee 3 A1: I think that robots will never take over the role of physicians or Health professionals. The efficiency and the security are key in our field. The impact on the organization level will be positive if we use robots for support activities or dangerous tasks. Otherwise, for the transfer of medications from the Pharmacy to patients, I think that it is a very risky thing, as we need a double check. Maybe for food but not for medications.

We have to go through a proof of concept and efficiency in different locations and contexts and to be tested for a long time. Healthcare is a business of people!

Employee 3 A2: I can’t see robots making up half of our team (colleagues) in the near future. Their presence, a minimal one, will be welcomed as i said before for some tasks. If it creates efficiency for them, employees will accept their presence but health care will remain with people not with machines. It’s driven by People for People!

Employee 3 A3: For patients it will be interesting for them to interact with robots perhaps in the information desk to have some information or check administrative documents. My generation and that of my parents need more contact with humans may be it will be fine for Millennials!

Health care is an emotional thing! is compassion and Robots are not able to deal with this level!

What about chronic pain, what about the emotional support?

Findings, analysis:

The process of thematic content analysis and the Identified themes that ’emerge from the data’:

« Open-Coding » from Interview 1:

  • Organizational and financial impact: Efficiency, reducing human mistakes, support tasks, reorientation of employees to do more interesting tasks, availability 24/7 of robots.
  • Employees impact: useful, Prepare, acceptable to a certain limit, union resistance.
  • Patients impact: acceptability, take a while, easy to deal with, reception and information tasks.

« Open-Coding » from Interview 2 :

  • Organizational and financial impact: Costly (input side), cost effective (output side), high operating and maintenance cost, multi-tasking.
  • Employees impact:Job insecurity, unemployment, socio-economic implications for jobless society(Depression, mental health issues, increase in poverty and drug use ), Suitable for minor tasks, emotionless, non-responsive to feelings and thoughts, greatly affect social life, and decision making processes.
  • Patients impact: Lack social well-being (Kindness, humaneness, adaptedness). Lack of comfort and support, late recoveries

« Open-Coding » from Interview 3 :

  • Organizational and financial impact: Security, risky, double check, proof of concept, tested for a long time
  • Employees impact: efficiency, driven by people for people
  • Patient impact: interesting, millennials, emotional support, compassion, chronic pain.

The above interviews demonstrated that the acceptability of the presence of robots is not yet won among employees and patients for different reasons.
Skepticism and hesitation are present in the answers of all the employees with some reserves issued related to the cost, socio-economic implications.

Otherwise, everyone confirm that robots are an irreversible reality in healthcare and their presence will be useful for the community if we prepare the patients and the employees to deal with these machines.

SWOT Analysis:

Available here:


Replacing employees with robots is an inevitable choice for organizations in the service sector, more so in the healthcare sector because of the challenging and sometimes unhealthy working environments.

However, at the same time, we have to do it in a manner that helps in improving the employment and motivation of employees in this sector and the impact on patients and on the organization.

The question now is how policy decision maker will deal within this intrusion into this sacred field of healthcare? In other terms, which legal framework to protect employees and/or patients from medical incidents/ errors “caused” by Robots?


Sherry James. Medical Robotic Systems Market To 2020 – Industry Size, Growth Prospects: Grand View Research, Inc.
Edwin Henry. 2015.The Future of Healthcare: Robots, Drones, Automation.
Steve Crowe.2016. Meet Pillo: Your Personal Home Health Robot.
Pharma Report. 2016. Robotics in Healthcare Market Forecast 2015-2025. Opportunities for Leading Companies

Tanya M. Anandan.2015. Robots and Healthcare Saving Lives Together.

Peter B. Nichol.  How medical robots will change healthcare.
Rebecca A. Hill. 2016.Assistive Robots Vital to Future of Elder Care.
Owen Weldon. 2015. 10 ways robotics is transforming the healthcare industry.
Anjali Jaiprakash. 2016 .Robots in health care could lead to a doctorless hospital.

1 Comment

  1. I personally feel like the health care industry is decades behind where they should be in regards to technology adoption. Compare and Contrast health care with banking.

    Banking deals with peoples money, possibly the only thing people care about more than their health. Yet the banking industry is almost completely automated. Cash has been dispensed by robots for decades. All financial records are electronic. You interact with your bank through the internet. And your retirement savings are likely managed by an algorithm.

    I remember being a kid and waiting in line at the bank with my mom. I don’t wait in line any more.

    The interviews seem to believe the robots will occupy the menial positions in the hospital but the greatest gains will be in replacing the doctors themselves. Medicine is extremely complex and becoming more so every day. The degree of specialisation required is becoming ridiculous. An artificial intelligence can have all the knowledge of every specialist and does not get tired. Humans rarely operate at their best, and that is doubly true when in a stressful environment like a hospital.

    Also doctors are the biggest expense in the health care system thus the greatest savings can be achieved by replacing them.

    It is true that robots will lack the ‘human element’ but last I checked you don’t have to pay someone $300k per year to be human.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.