Motivation

Healthcare is the second major expenditure, in terms of GDP percentage, of the Member States (EUROSTAT 2014), accounting for up to 11% of GDP and 15% of general government expenditure. This is expected to further increase due to the increase of the elderly population (by 2060, the median age of the EU-27’s population is projected to rise to 47.6 years, from about 41 in 2010, and 29.5% of the population will be 65 years of age or over, compared to 17.4% in 2010, Eurostat 2010) and the simultaneous lack of healthcare experts and carers. Estimated costs of such an increasing population indicate an enormous economic burden caused by falls in old age, while the total estimated worldwide costs of dementia were US$ 604 billion in 2010, one third of which belonged to Western Europe, being the region with the highest number of people with dementia (7.0 million) (World Health Organization 2012). 46% of the total costs of injury related hospital admissions concern people above the age of 65 (S. Polinder et. al and the EUROCOST reference group, Cost Estimation of Injury-Related Hospital Admissions in 10 European Countries, J Trauma. 59:1283–1291, 2005). Thus, dementia is already imposing huge economic burdens, both through direct (medical and social care) and hidden costs (unpaid caregiving by families and friends). Hence, there is an increasing necessity for a government strategy to develop and improve services for elderly people, with an emphasis on earlier diagnosis, and effective interventions promoting an active and healthy ageing. Furthermore, during 2016-2020, the global rehabilitation robots market is expected to grow steadily at a compound annual growth rate of 25% (Global rehabilitation Robots Market, Technavio).

At the same time, minimally invasive surgery (MIS) has changed the landscape of peri-operative surgical care over the last three decades, while robot-assisted surgical systems have been increasingly used in MIS procedures over the past ten years. While the case of their use is complex, it is strongly expected that there will be an increasing number of different procedures carried out using telerobotic technology in the coming decade (SPARC, Strategic Research Agenda for Robotics in Europe, 2014-2020). The global MIS market, which was valued at US$25.03 billion in 2012, will reach a worth of US$50.60 billion by 2019 (Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast, 2013 – 2019). The special report “Healthcare Robotics 2015-2020: Trends, Opportunities & Challenges” from the Robotics Business Review predicts that the global surgical robotics market is expected to reach $19.96 billion by 2019.