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Robotic Entities Could Improve Institutional Quality of Care

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 05 Nov 2019
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Image: A SARA robot interacting with a patient (Photo courtesy of Bright Cape).
Image: A SARA robot interacting with a patient (Photo courtesy of Bright Cape).
Introducing social and autonomous robotic health assistants (SARAs) to aid nurses interacting with patients could help overcome overwhelming schedules and personnel reduction.

The SARA consortium, led by Bright Cape (Eindhoven, The Netherlands), Forum Virium Helsinki (Finland), GIM Robotics (Helsinki, Finland), the Technical University of Berlin (TUB; Germany), and other institutions, is working to introduce robots as largely autonomous social entities in nursing homes and hospitals. Using a system called SARA Home, the robots are accessible from a computer or tablet, allowing nurses to elaborate a personalized profile and health plan for every patient.
SARA robots will be used assist patients complete specific exercises several times a week, helping them to improve their mental and physical fitness. For example, the robots could ask the patient to associate a word to the right color, or to choose among different stories in order to define which one is more fit to a certain context. By interacting with the users and presenting them with such simple exercises, their mental condition could be improved, helping to escape deterioration into the second, more acute stage of dementia. Two pilot tests are currently ongoing, in nursing homes in Finland and in the Netherlands.

“We are working in particular with people who are in closed psychiatric departments suffering from dementia in a first stage,” said project manager Emmy Rintjema, of Bright Cape. “We believe that robots could give a great contribution to healthcare, not to replace nurses, but to collaborate with them and reduce their workload, so they have more time to spend with patients. We are working together with nursing homes in a collaborative approach, mimicking the work of a nurse with a robot and testing the first functionalities with them.”

The rapidly ageing population of Europe is bringing new challenges to a changing society. Hospitals and care institutions are facing serious staffing shortages, as fewer and fewer people choose to become healthcare professionals, while at the same time the number of people suffering from morbidities is constantly on the rise. Heavy work pressure has proven to be related to poor quality of care and to incidents such as medication errors, which 13.8% of nurses deal with weekly.

Related Links:
Bright Cape
Forum Virium Helsinki
GIM Robotics
Technical University of Berlin

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