Will Robots Replace Healthcare Professionals in the Future of Work?

Author: Ramatu Abdulkadir

Do we need to develop talent in healthcare supply chains? After all, the BOTs will soon come and take over our jobs. What next? Who's going next? When are the robots coming? These are questions that beg for answers as healthcare professionals and patients mull over the future of AI, machine learning, deep learning and robotics in healthcare.

The fear is real, and people feel helpless with situations beyond their control. It also doesn't help with all the movies on robots going rogue! Who wants to have an operation carried out by a robot that suddenly goes rogue? More videos like 'Robocop' will make stakeholders warm up to robots. Imagine you have a robot you can call for all your healthcare needs.

Okay maybe not all, how about in emergencies when you have a heart attack or during road traffic accidents? Already, warehouses and manufacturing plants are fully automated using service robots. Will that be the faith of the healthcare sector in the next decade? Or are those stories for Hollywood?

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AI and robotics have found use in healthcare technology like the electronic patient record, medical informatics, Intelligent prosthetics and robotized surgery. A report on robotics for healthcare identified five innovation themes around the use of robotics in medical interventions, professional care, therapies and diagnosis, assistive technology and rehabilitation.

The problem is that healthcare professionals are asking the wrong questions. The bots are already here, and the fact is they will be here for a long time. Robotics in healthcare is at its infancy, patient-provider relationship and trust are recurring issues preventing demand and acceptability of robots as enumerated by Cresswell et al., (2018). Healthcare providers have lost this battle, as service users continue to demand faster, quality and affordable healthcare. Factors that will determine the integration of robotics into healthcare systems will include


The use of health management information systems (HMIS) and other AI-powered data analytics do not pose a threat as much as the patient-provider interaction. With the current global demand for reduced cost of healthcare, the use of robotics might be more dependent on patients demand than healthcare providers acceptance. Once the patient accepts a lower-cost treatment for endoscopy, then the providers will lose out to market forces. Demand and supply apply here too. Self-care is an empowering aspect supported by AI and robotics. AI and robotics give more control to the end-user; humans feel better when we have control over everything, including our health.


Healthcare industry practitioners should view robots as a helping hand that also requires support and guidance. Robots should be seen as part of the team to make us better in serving patients. AI, machine learning, deep learning, internet of things can enhance our skills with predictive analytics. The use of AI and robotics, according to PwC, will lead to better, faster and more accurate early detection, diagnosis, treatment, research and training.

Use of technology to automate repetitive tasks with precision will make health systems more resilient and sustainable. Engagement of stakeholders in the design and integration of robotics in healthcare policy will go a long way in addressing most of the fears regarding robots. Cultural issues will also play a vital role in the type of robot that will be acceptable for a particular environment.

Smart devices and apps promote healthy behaviour and reduce the need to see a doctor. Practitioners will have enough time to handle complex cases that require human intervention. If humanoid is the problem, engaging and participating in the design will help designers and engineers figure out the most acceptable robots for your needs.

Are you worried about ethical issues of moving from human-human interaction to human-machine interaction? That ship sailed a long time ago. How many hours do you spend with your phone and other gadgets? My guess is pretty much. The best approach is to embrace change because it's inevitable and begin to prepare for our new team member 'Robohealth'.


Governments and other stakeholders should provide policies and enabling environment to integrate AI and robotics into the health sector. Dissemination of correct information and engaging all stakeholders can be fast-tracked by developing strategies and roadmap for robotised healthcare. Wherever you stand on the divide of AI and robotics in healthcare, the one common denominator is, we all want more cost-effective and better healthcare interventions.

Let's take it from there!

What predictive analytic software have you used recently? Do you think AI and robots are enablers or disablers in healthcare service delivery?