Event summary, /

The fourth webinar of the European Commission’s Health Policy Platform Thematic Network on “Profiling and training the health care workers of the future” took place on Monday 9 September 2020 via webinar. The event was organised by Health First Europe and EHMA, as coordinators of the EUHPP Thematic Network dedicated to “Profiling and training the health care workers of the future”. The meeting aimed at discussing education programmes and core competencies in the scope of AI and robotics with the contribution of Dr Imran Aslam from the United European Gastroenterology (UEG), and Ms Monique Kappert, Innovation Manager at the St. Franciscus Hospital in Rotterdam. The speakers introduced their case studies on the use of robotic platforms and AI solutions, the importance of which has been highlighted by the current COVID-19 pandemic.

As introduced by Ms Monique Kappert, with an ageing population, the way we deliver healthcare must change. Most of the times, patients search online for medical recommendations before visiting a doctor. They generate all kinds of data that are potential relevant for their wellbeing; and they expect a different way of treatment and communication. On workforce’s shortage, Ms Monique Kappert stressed that we will be faced by an increasing deficiency of resources can be partially solved by robotics, but healthcare managers and decisionmakers shall always keep in mind that innovation is about people not technologies.

In Franciscus Gasthuis & Vlietland, Ms Monique Kappert and her colleagues explore all kinds of innovations in robotics, for example social humanoid robot able to recognize faces and to engage with people through conversation and his touch screen. With remote-monitoring capabilities, robots empower patient to access larger-scope care.

The case study resulted in the following policy recommendations:

  • Involve people who love to experiment and are enthusiastic by themselves;
  • Engagement of patients from the start;
  • Pick the patient journey as a starting point and change it in the most optimum process, sustainable for long-term;
  • Define a clear process and let the team celebrate successes – even the small ones;
  • Pay attention to emotions of care professionals that are afraid to become unnecessary

The second study case was presented by Prof. Dr. med. Alexander Meining – gastroenterologist at the University Hospital in Würzburg, Germany. He talked about robotics in the field of gastroenterology

Half million robot assisted surgeries have been performed throughout the world every year. Robotics platforms are human operated and controlled tool kits to perform laparoscopic and endoscopic procedures. Three dimensional views, access in crowded organ spaces and fine range of movements on robotic arms enable healthcare professionals to perform complex procedures with more precision, flexibility and control.

Robotic tool kits are used to remove gastrointestinal (GI) cancers, perform bariatric surgery, fix tissues to its normal positions and provide diagnostic access to GI tract. Robotic assisted minimally invasive procedures are associated with less pain, early hospital discharge and better outcomes. Development of slender, versatile and affordable robotic platforms is enabling healthcare professionals to perform less invasive diagnostic and therapeutic procedures with the potential to reduce variation in outcomes. However, a lack of standardised training pathway, certification of GI healthcare professionals using robotic toolkits and European database for safety and clinical outcomes is still lacking. Access to robotic platforms is also disparate in Europe and is a burden to train professionals.

The use of robotic platforms to detect and treat diseases, in our case gastrointestinal diseases, is growing at a fast pace. Clinical application of robotic platforms is currently challenging. Robotics offers many potential technical advantages and are an opportunity for the diagnostic and treatment of numerous digestive diseases, as robotics are being used for Bariatric surgery, rectal cancer surgery, endoscopic therapeutic procedures, etc.

Robotics benefit to the general public, reducing variation in outcomes, improving clinical outcomes and results, and allowing short term advantages of minimally invasive procedures, with for example less operative blood loss, less postoperative pain and consequently, reduced requirement of narcotics, and a shorter length of stay.

To cope with the fast development of robotic surgery, the use of these robotic platforms needs to be increasingly trained, taught, and certificates should be delivered for the use of gastrointestinal robotics. At the EU Level, we experience strong inequalities in the uptake of gastrointestinal robotics and different quality standards for their use. It is therefore becoming increasingly important to develop aligned standards of Robotic Surgery training in Europe.

The case study resulted in the following policy recommendations:

Exchanges of good practices and establishment of common standards in training and quality of Robotic Surgery in general, and in gastrointestinal surgery specifically, is needed. Medical societies are participating in the dissemination of knowledge, high standards and guidelines. A comprehensive European agenda and further dissemination towards health care professionals across Europe should be discussed.

In the open debates, participants discussed the challenges and opportunities of robotic applications to healthcare systems as well as the great amount of data needed to make it work. Robotics in surgery is becoming more sophisticated with the time, new technologies allow minimal invasive surgery and endoscopy. Healthcare workers need to have access to continual training programmes to drive these innovations, constantly updating,

EU institutions are increasingly focusing on the legal challenges posed by the robotics and AI sector. Although much remains to be decided, it is clear that future steps from the Commission will significantly affect the development of robotics and AI research and development in the EU.

The outcome of this debate, as well as of the following webinars, will be included the Thematic Network joint statement, aiming at profiling the healthcare workers of the future and identifying their core competencies and role for promoting data-driven innovation and patient-centred and inter-disciplinary models of care.