Research Topic

Robotics, Autonomous Systems and AI for Nonurgent/Nonemergent Healthcare Delivery During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Worldwide, there are currently over four million cases of patients with a confirmed link to COVID-19. In the lack of any vaccine or proven antiviral treatment, prevention and containment of the virus depends on social distancing, isolation, and quarantine. This, combined with the fact that most of the ...

Worldwide, there are currently over four million cases of patients with a confirmed link to COVID-19. In the lack of any vaccine or proven antiviral treatment, prevention and containment of the virus depends on social distancing, isolation, and quarantine. This, combined with the fact that most of the healthcare systems capacity has been focused on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, has resulted in the limiting or pausing of less urgent care such as physical neurorehabilitation and assessment and non-emergency outpatient procedures. This has left individuals with illnesses, disorders, and chronic conditions without the help, or medical intervention they need to recover or manage their conditions; creating a growing backlog of procedures and treatments.

Given that the second and third waves of the outbreak are expected in the coming months worldwide, it is important to systematically address these issues using advanced and novel technological solutions. This highlights the need for new ways of delivering various healthcare services to patients in need of check-ups, diagnosis, therapy, surgery, physical and mental rehabilitation, imaging, etc. These urgent needs fall across the continuum of care spanning prevention, acute care, chronic care, and end-of-life care and can be addressed if we start to innovate now.

In times of a health crisis such as the novel coronavirus pandemic, medical robotic systems, autonomous agents, and AI technologies can play a significant role by augmenting and assisting the healthcare system and safeguarding public health in various ways. The aforementioned technologies can facilitate the prevention, containment and mitigation of the coronavirus disease and provide general support for patients and medical professionals, alleviating the burden placed on healthcare systems during this crisis.

For instance, robots and telerobots can be used to help in preventing the spread of COVID-19 by making it possible for frontline healthcare workers to screen, triage, evaluate, monitor, and treat patients from a safe distance and minimize human-human close contact. Also, with the use of intelligent robots and autonomous agents, novel means of telehealth, telemedicine, and AI-based diagnosis can be developed to enable remote and in-home assessment and management of non-COVID-19 individuals with chronic conditions and disabilities for more effective, safe and equitable healthcare service delivery during the pandemic. Another example is autonomous robotic and telerobotic systems that allow for resuming elective surgical interventions while lowering the virus transmission risk to both the staff and the patient during the pandemic.

This Research Topic aims to collect opinions, reviews, commentaries, perspectives, and novel research articles that focus on the use of robotics, autonomous systems, and AI for enhanced health care delivery during and following the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal is to understand the existing challenges, potential solutions, and future vision for the benefits offered by robotics, automation and AI for healthcare delivery.

Topics of Interest include but are not limited to:

• Robotic autonomy and AI for augmenting the delivery of non-urgent/non-emergent healthcare services during COVID-19 pandemic
• Telehealth and AI technologies for remote assessment, diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment.
• Robotics for telesurgery, telerehabilitation, tele-assistance, and tele-assessment to protect frontline healthcare workers and patients.
• Semi-autonomous robotic system and shared autonomy for healthcare delivery during COVID-19 pandemic.
• Robotic and AI technologies for independent living and in-home and long-term care of high-risk populations.
• Autonomous robotics for disinfection, materials handling, and logistics in healthcare facilities.
• Robotic and augmented-reality simulators for training healthcare workers.
• Wearable technologies and the Internet of Medical Things for monitoring COVID-19 symptoms.
• Social robotics for supporting mental health.
• 3D-printing technologies for medical equipment manufacture.

Topic Editor Simon DiMaio is employed by Intuitive Surgical Inc. All other Topic Editors declare no competing interests with regard to the Research Topic subject.

***Due to the exceptional nature of the COVID-19 situation, Frontiers is waiving all article processing charges for COVID-19 related research submitted to this Research Topic before the manuscript deadline on 30th September 2020***

Research Topic cover image credit: Thomas and Isabel Naish


Keywords: COVID-19, Medical Robotics, AI for Medicine, Smart Digital Health, Autonomy for Telemedicine, COVID


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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