The use of robotics in healthcare is on the rise. Exoskeletons, new applications, and prosthetics, to nano-robotics and surgical robots, are already flooding the market.
In reality, healthcare robotics is projected to be a US$ 32.5 Billion industry by 2027, with an estimated CAGR of 21.3 percent from 2020 until 2027.
The COVID-19 pandemic also highlighted the necessity of robots as essential members of our health care workforce.
Robots were utilized to maintain hospital sanitation through disinfection robots as well as for bringing medicines to patients.
They were also employed for telepresence to ensure that patients were kept company when they were in isolation.
The domain of application of healthcare robotics will continue to grow as actuators and sensors get small and less precise while artificial intelligence will be utilized to increase the robot’s understanding and interaction capabilities.
Despite their many applications, the primary demographic from which robots can benefit is the aging adults.
The Case for Introducing Robots in Healthcare:
Countries such as Japan, the USA, Italy, and Denmark are experiencing a shift in the demographics of their populations as the numbers shift in favor of an aging population.
In the USA alone, the percentage of people who are over 65 will comprise 21percent of the total population in 2030, compared to 15% in 2018.
This demographic shift places significant pressure on health facilities and healthcare providers, which could include medical personnel and family members.
Many people would rather age in place rather than abandon their homes to live in a care facility. However, the process of aging puts an enormous challenge on people’s capacity to maintain independence due to declining health that can alter mobility and memory and could result in social insularity.
Furthermore, for those who are older people, the primary caregiver could also be an elderly spouse or adult child. So, caring for an additional dependent can have physical and mental stress on the caregiver too.
The care of elderly patients in community or nursing homes is also a challenge because of a lack of healthcare workers who can respond to the demand. Research suggests that the introduction of every person to nurses results in a 23% increase in the rate of burnout for nurses.
In addition, the expense of accessing these benefits could cause significant burdens on patients and their families. This is why the use of digital twins in healthcare robotics has the potential to contribute significantly to improving the quality of life of older adults, helping them live with dignity while reducing the burden on caregivers.
There’s a wealth of books available that outline the various functions robots can provide while caring for an elderly individual. There are a few of these tasks below.
Robotic Involvement in Activities of Daily Living to Improve Quality of Life:
The activities of everyday living (ADL) comprise things like mobility eating drinking, dressing hygiene, and sleeping. These activities are required for the bodily needs of a person. Robots also assist with the daily activities of living that aren’t vital for survival but greatly improve the overall quality of life. These include things such as cooking or cleaning the house.
CRUZR and Pepper
Robots like Cruzr and Pepper were deployed in hospitals, nursing homes, and private homes to track patients, especially during the COVID19 pandemic.
The robots are equipped with sensors that monitor vital signs like oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and body temperature, and can monitor the temporal state of the health of an individual.
Robots can offer elderly people necessary health checks while keeping caregivers aware of any issues that could be triggered.
Robots also can send reminders to patients for medication or meals as well as appointments with a doctor, and can sometimes permit the elderly to attend appointments via remote medical robots, which reduces the requirement for a caregiver to be present physically to give care.
This can be crucial in the event of a pandemic such as COVID-19 in which reducing human-to-human contact is crucial to making sure that the safety and health of seniors without jeopardizing care.
After COVID-19, these robots will continue to provide interventions if they are required, lessening the burden on the caretaker.
In addition, the designers have developed robots that provide physical support to those who are elderly.
- My Spoon has been designed to aid people with motor impairments to dress or eat without relying on their caregiver.
- RIBA (Robot to assist in Interactive Body) is able of getting patients out and in wheelchairs and beds, drastically reducing physical injuries to the caregiver while carrying out these demanding tasks.
In the same way, there are numerous models of machines that aid the elderly with everyday activities and essential daily living, such as
- HERBis a robotic butler who can cook clean and do other tasks in the home,
- Care-Obot 3 assists elderly people by bringing objects for them. It can also notify the police in case of an emergency.
- Cody was created to offer baths to older people. 2
Robots can assist seniors with daily tasks that range from monitoring health and recovery to physical activities. They are only beginning to explore the possibilities robots have in facilitating the decline in the health of the elderly.
Breakthroughs and Potential in Managing Social Isolation, Depression, and Mental Health:
Social Healthcare Robots
Designers have created social healthcare robots that facilitate interaction between humans-robots and human-human. They are useful in providing psychological and emotional help to seniors.
In contrast to robots that are designed to assist with the daily activities of life in which appearance is mostly influenced by their functions, the robots created to support emotional needs can differ in appearance and form, which ranges from animal-inspired (PARO, AIBO) to humanoid robots like Pepper.
Based on their shape, the level of support robots provide differs significantly. E.g. the studies conducted using the PARO robot that was developed to be a therapy robot, examine the positive impact on the mood of seniors as well as the reduction of loneliness as well as increased communication with the study participants.
Pepper and CRUZR
Humanoid robots, like Pepper, can assist in the design of exercises for elderly people in residential care homes. In turn, they’ve led to greater compliance among seniors to continue their daily routines.
Robots like Pepper and CRUZR can also assist in decreasing the social isolation of seniors by keeping them connected to their family members via video chat. In addition, they provide medical and emotional assistance to the elderly, they function as a mediator between human and human interaction.
Potential for Dementia and Alzheimer
Alzheimer’s patients and those with dementia suffer from memory loss. They may have to be constantly reminded of the same things several times. The constant repetition could be exhausting for the caregiver who has other obligations. Caretakers may respond with short responses that convey their frustration.
This could take an enormous impact on the elderly’s health and well-being, who may not even be able to remember the query.
In these instances, robots can be excellent mediators since their primary goal could be to help elderly people. Robots also have the advantage of being compassionate and not judging the condition of the elderly or demanding to repeat.
In light of these advantages, researchers and cognitive scientists are researching to help seniors with robots.
They imagine robots helping older people by stopping social isolation, offering therapy support, as well as other essential interventions.