The Role of Robotics in Infectious Disease Crises

by   Gregory Hager, et al.

The recent coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the many challenges faced by the healthcare, public safety, and economic systems when confronted with a surge in patients that require intensive treatment and a population that must be quarantined or shelter in place. The most obvious and pressing challenge is taking care of acutely ill patients while managing spread of infection within the care facility, but this is just the tip of the iceberg if we consider what could be done to prepare in advance for future pandemics. Beyond the obvious need for strengthening medical knowledge and preparedness, there is a complementary need to anticipate and address the engineering challenges associated with infectious disease emergencies. Robotic technologies are inherently programmable, and robotic systems have been adapted and deployed, to some extent, in the current crisis for such purposes as transport, logistics, and disinfection. As technical capabilities advance and as the installed base of robotic systems increases in the future, they could play a much more significant role in future crises. This report is the outcome of a virtual workshop co-hosted by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) held on July 9-10, 2020. The workshop consisted of over forty participants including representatives from the engineering/robotics community, clinicians, critical care workers, public health and safety experts, and emergency responders. It identifies key challenges faced by healthcare responders and the general population and then identifies robotic/technological responses to these challenges. Then it identifies the key research/knowledge barriers that need to be addressed in developing effective, scalable solutions. Finally, the report ends with the following recommendations on how to implement this strategy.



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