The role of AI and robotics in care
Market Insight 28 November 2023 28 November 2023
UK & Europe
In recent years, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in healthcare has advanced significantly. This article explores the role of AI and robotics in healthcare with a focus on recent global developments and the possible impact this could have on care claims inflation.
In May 2023 the former UK Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, thought the social care crisis could be alleviated using AI and robots. Mr Barclay said there was a need to consider and adopt other nations “innovative” approaches to health. While the UK Government’s focus is on reducing NHS waiting times and dealing with the social care crises, developments in robotics and AI can have a significant impact on the costs of care packages in adult and paediatric claims.
Numerous hospitals and healthcare institutions have been integrating AI algorithms into radiology for more accurate and timely diagnostics. The US has also been a leader in the adoption of robotic surgical symptoms like the da Vinci Surgical System. Initial evidence suggests robotic surgery can be less invasive and improve recovery times for patients. There are a large number of health startups using AI for applications ranging from telemedicine to personalized medicine, compensators should ensure their ‘horizon scanning’ includes keeping abreast of what the various startups are offering.
Japan has been at the forefront of using robotics for elderly care. In March 2017 Japan spent £39.5m to introduce robots into 5000 facilities increasing, in 2018 to over £236m. Nursing homes in Japan use a humanoid talking robot to interact with patients, including those with dementia, which include providing recreational activities.
Other robots are able to;
- Monitor patients as they sleep;
- Alert care providers to falls, medical emergencies and time for providing any medication;
- Provide assistance with heavy lifting duties e.g., lifting patients out of wheelchairs and beds which has the potential to reduce the number of employer’s manual handling claims.
Japan also uses exoskeletons and assistive devices to enhance mobility and provide support to its aging population.
South Korea has been investing in robotics for rehabilitation focusing on the development of exoskeletons and devices to assist patients regain their mobility.
There are 22 projects in the UK looking at how AI can be used within the healthcare industry.
- A hospital in Bristol is using robots to improve efficiency in some behind the scenes roles and is now experimenting with how robots might interact with patients.
- Surgical robots are already preforming surgical procedures and initial evidence suggests robotic surgery can be less invasive and improve recovery times for patients. At the forefront is the British-designed Versius robot which is currently used in 70 hospitals in the UK.
- Bristol based Open Bionics have developed a 3D printed bionic arm which has been fitted to both adults and children. An adult patient who had half of one arm missing was fitted by an NHS basic prosthetic. She had to raise £10,000 to purchase a Hero Arm. The arm can be fitted to children aged over eight and uses a motor controlled by the user’s muscles. The company also produces a Hero Flex arm which allows users to undertake a range of activities including lifting weights and play musical instruments.
In December 2021 we provided an insight into developments made by Inrobics Social Robotics S.L.L relating to a robotic device that can be used in any care setting to assist with motor and cognitive rehabilitation.
The Spanish National Hospital for Paraplegics was the first centre to conduct a clinical trial using these artificial intelligence tools with patients who have suffered spinal cord injuries. Its report was published in March 2023 which concluded, in a clinical setting, patients with a spinal cord injury were able to walk faster and longer after the training program. The report concluded “in light of this data, the mechanisms responsible for the improvements in exoskeleton-driven interventions should be confirmed in future multi-centre efficacy trials with large sample sizes.”
Personal injury claims
AI and robotics are increasingly playing a role in shaping personal injury claims. As these technologies become for advanced and integrated into the UK health care system defendants can expect to see claimant’s seeking damages for these modern technologies. Some of the key ones are likely to be;
Advanced medical interventions: AI driven diagnostics and treatment planning may form part of the treatment costs, this could include surgery using a robotic device.
Personalised care plans and rehabilitations: With patient orientated MI this will allow the carer to plan and organise sessions that are more suited to each individual patient. The robot is able to recognize the patient and create narratives or sessions based on the patient’s preferences.
Long-term care costs: This could include the costs of robots that not only assist with the caring role but also entertainment or keeping the claimant company.
Impact on future employability: Advancements in AI and robotics might influence the types of jobs a claimant can undertake. For example, it may be worthwhile paying for the costs of a bionic arm if that would allow the claimant to preform light manual work.
Increased complexity of claims: The introduction of AI and robotics introduces a layer of complexity to personal injury claims. Expert evidence may be required to comment on the initial costs, maintenance, and the potential for upgrades and replacements over time.
Mitigating care claims inflation
Compensators could take a number of proactive measures to mitigate care claims inflation such as;
Stay informed of advancements: Such knowledge could be crucial in assessing the veracity of any ‘novel’ claims and whether the proposed AI and robotic interventions will add any value.
Engage medical (and possibly IT) experts: Experts should comment on the appropriateness of specific interventions, their cost effectiveness and impact on the claimant’s overall recovery.
Challenge the necessity of advanced interventions: If there are traditional, proven methods of treatment available, that are less costly compensators may challenge the need for innovative technologies referring to the fact such treatments, which cost less, will not compromise the quality of the care.
Collaborate on care planning: Engage in collaborative discussions with claimant regarding care planning.
Emphasize pre – existing conditions: Compensators must ensure the claim relates to the accident related injuries. If not a discount from the costs of such treatment may be secured to take into account a relevant pre – existing medical condition.
Current limitations of the technology
Challenges include the high costs of implementation, ethical considerations, and the need for regulatory frameworks to ensure patient safety and privacy.
One fear is that such devices could in fact make some carers redundant which could have its own implications i.e., lack of rapport with the patient, adverse impact on mental health. It is not yet clear how much the robotic device, developed in Madrid, will cost however such devices could result in an added expense for insurers if claimants argue such devices will be of benefit to the claimant and should be included within any care package.
As more robots are introduced there is a growing body of evidence and studies, in Japan, that robots tend to create more work for caregivers because they have to be moved around, maintained, cleaned, booted up, operated, and explained to residents. In 2021 a study in Japan found that out of a sample of 444 people who provided care only 2% had experience with a care robot. It is possible when purchased, the robots may be used initially, but are then ignored. The company behind a robot called Pepper ceased producing it in 2021 citing weak demand.
The analogy to draw with care claims is if there is a large, expensive claim for AI or robotics will they in fact be used, maintained and/or replaced? One would suspect the younger the claimant the more plausible it is that robot will be used.
The Care, Statutory Funding and Rehabilitation SMG will be keeping a close eye on all developments in this fast changing area and will continue to report in the future.