Research focus

Robots in healthcare

Robotics are being increasingly used in healthcare, but their introduction can be problematic as shown by the following pieces of research
Robotics

Robotics are being increasingly used in healthcare, but their introduction can be problematic as shown by the following pieces of research

Implications for practice

  • Robotics are increasingly being used in healthcare settings to support patient care
  • Staff and patients need sufficient education to ensure robots are used appropriately

Overtrust of paediatric health-care robots: a preliminary survey of parent perspectives

Overtrust in robotic technology occurs where people's faith is greater than its capability. One risk is that children with disabilities, their parents and other caregivers might put too much trust in the technology, possibly resulting in a child being harmed or the technology being adopted prematurely.

This exploratory mixed-methods study focused on robotic exoskeletons,

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Robotics are being increasingly used in healthcare, but their introduction can be problematic as shown by the following pieces of research

Implications for practice

  • Robotics are increasingly being used in healthcare settings to support patient care
  • Staff and patients need sufficient education to ensure robots are used appropriately

PARO, the robotic seal that is being used to reduce anxiety in people with dementia. Picture: Getty Images

 

Overtrust of paediatric health-care robots: a preliminary survey of parent perspectives

‘Overtrust’ in robotic technology occurs where people's faith is greater than its capability. One risk is that children with disabilities, their parents and other caregivers might put too much trust in the technology, possibly resulting in a child being harmed or the technology being adopted prematurely.

This exploratory mixed-methods study focused on robotic exoskeletons, which represent the most likely robot used in the home to support children. It surveyed 97 American parents who had at least one child with a disability that affected their mobility.

More than 62% of respondents said they would trust their child to handle risky situations with an exoskeleton, such as climbing stairs or jumping, even though the technology may not be designed for such situations.

Responses about how best to warn of risky situations were evenly divided between the device providing an audible warning, a visual warning, or ceasing to function. The researchers suggest there should be further studies to investigate attitudes to robotic devices, and state the need for patient participation in the development of healthcare robotics.


Borenstein J, Wagner A, Howard A (2018) IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine. 25, 1, 46-54. doi: 10.1109/MRA.2017.2778743

 

Use of a robotic seal as a therapeutic tool to improve dementia symptoms: a cluster-randomized controlled trial

The effects of interactions with PARO, a robotic plush toy seal, on the behavioural and emotional symptoms of dementia, were compared with either a lookalike plush toy, or usual care. The study involved 415 people aged over 60 with a confirmed dementia diagnosis who were living in 28 long-term care facilities in south-east Queensland, Australia.

Facilities were stratified by funding status and then randomly allocated to one of three groups: individual 15-minute sessions three times a week for ten weeks with PARO (n=9) or PARO with robotic features disabled (n=10), and the control (n=9) was usual care. Participants were assessed using video observation and a formal measure of agitation (CMAI-SF) from baseline up to 15 weeks.

Results from video observations showed that participants in the PARO group were more verbally and visually engaged than participants in the plush toy group, and that PARO was more effective than usual care in improving pleasure and in reducing agitation. However, there was no difference between groups when measured using the CMAI-SF.

Although more effective than usual care in improving mood states and agitation, PARO was only more effective than a plush toy in encouraging engagement. The authors concluded that, where there were limited resources, using a plush toy could improve visual and verbal engagement for people with dementia, but should not be used to replace staff interaction.


Jøranson N, Pedersen I, Rokstad A et al (2016) Journal of Advanced Nursing. 72, 12, 3020-3033. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2017.03.018

The adoption of care robots in home care — a survey on the attitudes of Finnish home care personnel

The attitudes of Finnish registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses and other health and social care staff towards the introduction and use of care robots for home care were examined in this survey.

A 32-item questionnaire was completed by 200 home care workers in five areas of Finland. There was an 18.2% response rate. The study found staff intentions related to introducing robots in home care were influenced by their own beliefs on the usefulness of robots, the expectations of their colleagues and supervisors, and by their own confidence in learning to use care robots. Staff valued care robots for providing reminders and guidance and promoting the safety of older people in their homes.

The authors concluded that staff training and promotion of a positive atmosphere are the key to the successful introduction of care robots, but further research is needed on the usefulness and acceptance of more complex care robots.

Rantanen T, Lehto P, Vuorinen P et al (2018) Journal of Clinical Nursing. 27, 9-10, 1846-1859. doi: 10.1111/jocn.14355


Complied by Kat Millward, lecturer, City, University of London

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