The robots and AI technologies advancing South African health care

South African researchers and surgeons are using artificial intelligence and robotics to enhance healthcare in the country, BBC News reports.

The improvements include a video-call robot that patients can use to speak to their families without needing to be present in the room and an app — currently in development — that can detect tuberculosis by listening to people cough.

The technologies are also improving surgical procedures at Tygerberg hospital in Cape Town by allowing surgeons to perform precise operations via the DaVinci robot.

“The surgeon controls the robot from a console in the corner,” surgeon and University of Stellenbosch lecturer Dr Tim Forgan told the BBC.

“One can do really fine dissection and fine work under vision, so it really is a bit of a game-changer as far as the precision of surgery goes.”

Forgan added that procedures conducted with the robot result in less blood loss and makes it possible for patients to get out of hospital sooner.

The DaVinci robot used at Tygerberg Hospital is one of two in the country.

Researchers from the University of Stellenbosch are also working on an app that can determine whether someone has tuberculosis by analysing their cough.

“It uses an artificial intelligence-based, machine learning approach, where we have identified parts of the audio spectrum that are linked very strongly with the presence of tuberculosis,” said Grant Theron, Stellenbosch University’s principal investigator for the molecular biology and human genetics division.

“We almost want to apply [artificial intelligence] to computing devices that are available everywhere. Most commonly, this is a cellphone.”

The Tygerberg hospital also implemented the use of video-call robots in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The robots are controlled by hospital staff and patients can use them to communicate with loved ones without them needing to be in the room, or even at the hospital.

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The robots and AI technologies advancing South African health care