“Medical Cobotics Center develops indigenous cobots to improve healthcare in India”

In September 2023, iHub Anubhuti-IIITD Foundation (Technology Innovation Hub of IIIT-Delhi) and iHub Foundation for Cobotics (IHFC, Technology Innovation Hub of IIT Delhi) inaugurated their joint medical facility – MCC or Medical Cobotics Center at Indraprastha Institute of Information . Technology (IIIT) Delhi Campus. DST has funded this joint facility which will be managed by iHub Anubhuti and IHFC under the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NMICPS) mission. The Medical Cobotics Center aims to be India’s first state-of-the-art technology-based medical simulation and training facility for doctors, paramedics, technicians, engineers, biomedical researchers and entrepreneurs. The center is also equipped to provide hands-on simulation training to the medical fraternity across the country. Dr. Rashmi Tripathi Manager, Operations at IHFC, Technology Innovation Hub of IIT Delhi and Dr. Seema Singh, consultant at IHFC, Technology Innovation Hub of IIT Delhi jointly responded to an interview by BioSpectrum India on the role of the center in cobotics development.

Provide a brief explanation of MCC, its vision and mission.

The Medical Cobotics Center (MCC), located at Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Okhla, New Delhi, has been set up as a joint initiative of IHFC (Technology Innovation Hub of IIT Delhi) and iHub Anubhuti (Technology Innovation Hub of IIIT Delhi), under the NM-ICPS Mission of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India.

This facility is considered a unique Center of Excellence (COE) in healthcare, medical cobotics and AI in India. The center has been set up to create an ecosystem for Skill Development, R&D and Start-ups in the field of Medtech devices and equipment. This facility aims to bridge the gap between the medical and engineering fields by providing a common platform for collaboration in training, research, new product development and commercialization.

The stated objectives of the Medical Cobotics Center (MCC) include:

  • Providing sustainable, long-term indigenous solutions to the country in medical systems and technologies.
  • Staying connected with the medical industry to meet their requirements at every stage.
  • To create a widespread network of stakeholders, such as facilities created by other hospitals and the government. Institutions like ICMR etc.

MCC is a 10,000 sq ft facility in the heart of Delhi with the following facilities:

– Space for training, workshops & meetings

– Human Patient Simulator (HPS) for simulation-based healthcare training.

– Innovation and research facility to assist academic institutions and researchers in the field of technology and medicine.

– Incubation center for startups for better and affordable product design.

– Medical device testing center and AR/VR facility.

– Display Center of Prototypes, conceptualized by students and researchers.

– High Performance Computing Facility and data center.

MCC also collaborates to create a better ecosystem with entities such as:

– Industry including Medtech, Pharma, Digital health.

– Ecosystem partners – Healthcare providers, hospitals, diagnostic centers.

– Researchers, academics, product developers.

– Incubators, accelerators, financial, regulatory and design consultants.

What are the unique challenges facing the Indian healthcare system that the Medical Cobotics Center aims to address with its innovations? Can you provide specific examples of cobot-driven solutions tailored to India’s needs?

Most innovation, research and new business ideas in healthcare happen in silos. Different stakeholders in the ecosystem – healthcare providers, technologists and researchers, industry, medical and technology academia, start-ups – do not interact with each other. This poses significant challenges for the innovation ecosystem, such as:

– Lack of laboratory to bring commercially viable product-oriented research to market.

– Product creation happens in silos.

– Lack of problem-oriented approach.

– Poor product market suitable for innovative products.

– Difficulties in obtaining regulatory and compliance approvals.

– Difficult to scale health technology products from startups.

These are some of the challenges we are trying to solve at MCC.

An example of a homegrown innovation is a telerobotic ultrasound system developed by Prof. SK Saha and Prof. Chetan Arora of IIT Delhi and Dr. Chandrashekhara of AIIMS, New Delhi. This system is designed for use in future pandemics where contact between healthcare providers and infected patients must be avoided. In addition, IHFC is funding several R&D projects in rehabilitation robotics and prosthetic devices at leading institutes across the country to provide low-cost healthcare solutions to India’s disabled population.

What initiatives has the Center taken to build a skilled workforce capable of developing, deploying and maintaining medical cobot technologies in India? Are there specific programs or collaborations in this area?

IHFC is conducting simulation-based training and workshops to address this issue by collaborating with Vidyanta and AIIMS. Since it has recently started, we aim to dedicate this MCC to such training 365 days a year. Other topics include the incubation of medical startups and collaborations with the relevant government. and non-governmental. medical entities such as.

What do you see as the most promising areas for medical cobot development in India in the next two to three years? Where do you see the Center making the biggest contribution?

The Center is already making progress in providing training to healthcare professionals using simulators. IHFC has also led several R&D projects in the field of rehabilitation. Both IHFC and partner i-Hub Anubhuti support many start-ups in the field of applying AI in healthcare. In the future, there could be more diversification of the MCC activities into multiple domains.

What are the key regulatory, infrastructural or adoption barriers that the Center foresees in the widespread use of medical cobots in India? How is the Center working to proactively address these challenges?

These are the challenges:

  1. Regulatory Challenges: The introduction of new medical technologies involves navigating regulatory approval processes such as ISO 14971. Streamlining these processes for emerging technologies such as medical cobots is essential to ensure timely implementation.
  2. Infrastructure: The widespread adoption of medical cobots requires a robust technology infrastructure, including high-speed internet connectivity, to support remote monitoring, data sharing and teleoperation. Good training facilities and education programs for healthcare professionals are needed to ensure that they can effectively use and integrate medical cobots into their practice.
  3. Adoption issues:

  • The use of medical cobots involves collecting and exchanging sensitive patient data. Establishing robust data security and privacy measures is critical to building trust and ensuring regulatory compliance.
  • Efforts to make these technologies more affordable and accessible can boost adoption.
  • Cultural attitudes toward healthcare technology may vary, and public perception may influence the acceptance of medical cobots. Educating the public about the benefits and safety of these technologies is essential for widespread adoption.
  • Developing a legal framework that addresses liability issues associated with the use of medical cobots is critical. This includes determining responsibility in the event of errors or malfunctions and defining insurance policies to cover potential risks. Addressing ethical considerations related to patient autonomy, informed consent, and the responsible use of artificial intelligence in healthcare is essential to gaining public and professional trust.
  • Lack of awareness and education among healthcare providers, administrators and the general public about the possibilities and benefits of medical cobots can hinder widespread adoption.

The Medical Cobotics Center seeks to overcome these barriers by working with regulators, industry stakeholders, healthcare professionals and policymakers to create an environment that is inclusive and conducive to the successful integration of medical cobots in India healthcare system.

Barriers to training are that it is currently not mandatory for medical students and physicians to spend a certain number of hours on simulation-based training. The presence of affordable simulators in India is also a challenge. That’s why we want startups to create indigenous simulators for nurses, paramedics, police and other departments.

Anusha Ashwin