Robotics to take-over doctors in the UAE?


Artificial intelligence can achieve what man cannot achieve, in various aspects in the medical field.

More hospital in the UAE are now turning to robotic surgery to perform some of the most complex and dynamic procedures. But will advanced artificial intelligence in the medical field soon replace the hands of real-life doctors in the country?

“Robotic surgeries have more control over the precision of the incision, minimal blood loss, less risk of infection, faster recovery and less pain for the patient,” said Dr Shabeer Nellikode, Managing Director, Universal Hospital.

He told Khaleej Times that artificial intelligence can achieve what man cannot achieve, in various aspects in the medical field.

Dr Nellikode said that Universal Hospital was one of the first to use robotic pharmacy dispensing back in 2012, which allows error-free drug count – something that a human may not always be guaranteed to do ever-so precisely.

Moreover, the hospital is also launching a child-sized robot this year, which Dr Nellikode said will immensely help children with autism.

“There are a lot of children with autism spectrum disorder in the UAE. The child-sized humanised robot will be able to play with children with autism and support them.”

He pointed out that autistic children will interact and feel closer to the robot than with humans, because the robot will carry similar characteristics to them.

“The children will be interacting with ‘people’ who do not have a taboo to play with them.”

Dr Nellikode stressed that although artificial intelligence and robotics are taking center stage in the medical field, they will not necessarily replace doctors.

“But a doctor who is using artificial intelligence and robotics will definitely replace a doctor that doesn’t use them,” he added.

He said he is looking forward to more forward-thinking softwares that can help save human lives.

“The top causes of death in most countries are cancer, nerve related illnesses and cardiovascular diseases.”

However, he said that there is a clinical research conducted on artificial intelligence, which may help save millions of lives in the future.

“We will soon have a robot detecting hypertension, by simply looking at the eye of the patient.”

Moreover, he added that every year, millions of monograms are being done in the UAE, and to analyse, archive, evaluate and come up with a conclusion is impossible for a human, which is why artificial intelligence is necessary.

“A human interface is simply not strong enough to save data, with so much precision and error-free conclusion.”

Growing AI in UAE hospitals

Dr Jorge Guzman, Chief of Staff, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, told Khaleej Times that since its opening in 2015, the hospital has so far conducted a whopping 148 robotic cases.

In March this year, surgeons performed the UAE’s first robotic hysterectomy surgery, allowing the patient to be up and walking, just hours after surgery.

Dr Guzman said that the rise of robotics and connected devices has allowed doctors to treat diseases more effectively and monitor people’s health both in and out of the hospital.

He pointed out that healthcare technology continues to develop apace in the UAE.

“One of the most interesting developments from a patient’s perspective is connected devices. These allow us to monitor patients remotely and in real time.”

This device helps doctors by providing a large amount of data to help diagnose and manage the patient’s condition.

Moreover, Dr Guzman said that the clinic’s unique remote heart monitoring programme has helped save lives of patients.

“We’re now able to monitor our heart patients’ vital signs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, giving them peace of mind and allowing us to intervene much earlier if they begin having symptoms.”

From a surgical point of view, in addition to robotic surgery, 3D printing has already helped doctors plan and prepare for surgeries.

“We can print a 3D model of a patient’s heart based on detailed scans that allow our surgical teams to plan exactly how the operation should go.”

“This means shorter operations and fewer complications in the operating room, improving outcomes for patients and meaning that we can treat more patients.”

Furthermore, technology now enables doctors to see and manage their patients remotely via telemedicine. Patients are increasingly able to receive care from their doctors at a distance and at their own convenience.

“Technology has had a positive impact on people’s lives and health. This is especially important as we contend with rising levels of lifestyle diseases.”

High costs holding-back robotic surgeries

Dr El Zaqui Ladha, Consultant Bariatric Surgeon, Bareen International Hospital, said he is looking forward to witnessing the growth of robotic surgeries in the UAE.

“Today, a doctor in Dubai can operate on a patient in Oman,” he said.

However, he stressed that the cost of a robotic surgery is extremely high.

“This is the big factor that is blocking us from moving forward to robotic surgery.”

“I don’t think the hospitals are using robots at the full capacity, because the learning curve is difficult, and it still needs a doctor to conduct the surgery.”

Dr Ladha said there also needs to be more improvement in softwares.

“The softwares need to be more intelligent and able to analyse the emotions of people, as well as their status at work and at home, because so much is linked.”

“When a patient has a health issue, this issue can be related to various factors in his life.”

He stressed that as with any technology, the risks in using robotic procedures are alive.

“There are risks of having a robot breakdown due to the software system during an operation – just like how your computer might suddenly breakdown while you are in the in the middle of work.”

However, Dr Ladha does see robotic surgeries growing in the UAE’s future.

“Robotic surgery will certainly be our future, because that’s where we are heading towards now.”