Dr WANG Yulun, Fellow at Teladoc Health and Co-founder and Chairman of World Telehealth Initiative and Maxcess Health, delivered the PAIR Public Lecture titled “An Entrepreneur’s Perspective on Surgical Robotics and Telemedicine, and their Convergence” in hybrid mode on 10 January 2023. The seminar attracted over 120 participants from over 25 countries and regions, including Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, etc. The participants came from diverse backgrounds and sectors, including academia, science and engineering, research and development, the medical and healthcare industry, etc.Dr Wang began the seminar by giving a brief history of surgical robots and their applications. He then showed the audience a short video about the first transatlantic tele-surgical operation, “Lindbergh operation”, carried out by a team of French surgeons led by Prof. Jacques Marescaux in New York on a patient in Strasbourg, France, on 7 September 2001. The operation involved minimally invasive surgery and high-speed fibre optic technology. The surgeon controlled the arms of the robotic surgical system in New York to operate on the patient in France.
Dr Wang then elaborated on the emergence of telemedicine and technology-enabled remote health care. He pointed out that more and more doctors have become specialists, and patients are now looking for quality, access and low-cost healthcare. Telemedicine utilises technologies for electronic health records and personalised medicine, big data analytics, artificial intelligence and remote monitoring so that practitioners can serve more patients efficiently without boundaries.
Another short video was shown to explain the application of telestroke medicine—telemedicine for stroke patients in remote locations. Stroke experts work with local emergency health care providers to recommend a diagnosis and treatment. In this way, thousands of lives can be saved since patients can have access to proper stroke treatments and advice within three hours.
Subsequently, Dr Wang talked about the digital transformation during the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The internet has driven various sectors, including the healthcare industry, to do business internationally through interconnected computer networks. The COVID-19 pandemic has also catalysed the rapid adoption of digital technology. Hence, the future of the healthcare system will be a combination of cloud-based solutions in digital health, telemedicine and virtual care, which are considered reliable, scalable and cost-effective.
Finally, Dr Wang looked at digital healthcare for non-profit and charitable causes. He talked about the World Telehealth Initiative (WTI), a non-profit he co-founded in 2017, leverages telehealth to bring clinical expertise to the world’s most vulnerable communities to build the local expert capacity and advance core health services.
A 30-minute question-and-answer session moderated by Prof. CHEN Qingyan, Director of PAIR, followed. The audience had a fruitful exchange with Dr Wang on the regulatory issues in healthcare, the contributory role of computer science and biomedical engineering in telemedicine, the technical and financial complications in telemedicine, ethical issues in digital healthcare, etc.
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