Abstract / Description of output

Background: The emergence of robotics is transforming industries around the world. Robot technologies are evolving exponentially, particularly as they converge with other functionalities such as Artificial Intelligence to learn from their environment, from each other, and from humans.

Objective: To understand the emerging role of robotics in healthcare and identify existing and likely future challenges to maximizing the benefits associated with robotics and related convergent technologies.

Methods: We conducted qualitative semi-structured one-to-one interviews exploring the role of robotic applications in healthcare contexts. Using purposive sampling, we identified a diverse range of stakeholders who were involved in conceiving, procuring, developing and/or using robotics in a range of national and international healthcare settings. Interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed thematically, supported by NVivo 10 software. Theoretically, this work was informed by the sociotechnical perspective, where social and technical systems are understood as being interdependent.

Results: We conducted 21 interviews and these accounts suggested that there are significant opportunities of improving the safety, quality and efficiency of healthcare through robotics, but our analysis identified four major barriers that need to be effectively negotiated to realize these: 1) no clear pull from professionals and patients; 2) the appearance of robots and associated expectations and concerns; 3) disruption of the way work is organized/distributed; and 4) new ethical and legal challenges requiring flexible liability/ethical frameworks.

Conclusions: Sociotechnical challenges associated with the effective integration of robotic applications in healthcare settings are likely to be significant, particularly for patient facing functions. These need to be surfaced and tackled for effective innovation and adoption.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10410
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number7
Early online date4 Jul 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jul 2018


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