Roboticsand robotsusing advanced forms of artificial intelligence are no longer the stuff of science fiction in healthcare.

In fact robotics and robots in healthcare are becoming big business with shipments that are estimated to increase worldwide from approximately 3,400 units annually in 2016 to more than 10,500 units per year by 2021, says market research firm Tractica. At the same time Tractica also projects sales for healthcare robots and systems will grow from an estimated $1.7 billion in 2016 to $2.8 billion by 2021.

More than 200 companies are already active in various aspects of the healthcare robotics market, says Tractica principal analyst Wendell Chun. These industry players are creating highly specialized devices for a wide range of applications.

In healthcare roboticsand the emerging artificial intelligence systems powering roboticswill soon be mainstream in operating rooms, in logistics and disinfectant systems, in some nursing situations and for use in rehabilitation, Tractica says.

A robot or robotic system can be used by a surgeon to perform all or part of an operation and in virtual training sessions. In hospitals, robots are projected to take on a variety of roles including for delivery and transport of materials, such as medical supplies, cleaning and disinfecting rooms and even for use as digital nursing assistants.


In rehabilitation, robotics already are being used to help victims of stroke or spinal cord injury to walk again or regain lost use of a limb such as a hand. Over the next several years surgical robots and robotic systems will account for the most shipments and sales and North America will account for the biggest market, although Tractica didnt break out specific numbers.

Healthcare providers are attracted to robots due to their ability to reduce the cost of care, offload menial tasks from human personnel, improve the accuracy of repetitive tasks, and enable enhanced forms of therapy and rehabilitation, among other types of uses, Chun says.