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Healthcare assistants 'would welcome robot assistants'


Nurses could soon be assisted in their jobs by robotic helpers, according to US researchers.

Healthcare providers were asked for their views on machines that are currently being developed with the potential to carry out basic tasks such as housework, feeding and walking.

And while you could be forgiven for thinking that nurses and nursing assistants may be wary of the robots, viewing them as potential replacements, more than half of those surveyed said they would prefer a robotic assistant to a human.

However, the Georgia Institute of Technology study found that while many healthcare assistants were happy for the robots to help them carry out certain tasks, they were opposed to them assisting with others.

For example, respondents were broadly keen for the robots to help out with instrumental activities of daily living like helping with housework and reminding patients when to take their medication, but they were against assistance with direct physical interactions such as bathing and feeding patients and helping them get dressed. For these tasks they said human assistants would be more appropriate.

Study leader Tracy Mitzner said: “One open question was whether healthcare providers would reject the idea of robotic assistants out of fear that the robots would replace them in the workplace.

“This doesn’t appear to be a significant concern. In fact, the professional caregivers we interviewed viewed robots as a way to improve their jobs and the care they’re able to give patients.

“Robots aren’t being designed to eliminate people. Instead, they can help reduce physical demands and workloads.

“Hopefully, our study helps create guidelines for developers and facilitates deployment into the healthcare industry. It doesn’t make sense to build robots that won’t be accepted by the end user.”

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Readers' comments (36)

  • Oh, dear.

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  • " reduce physical demands and workloads."

    the only comment I can make is to agree with the one above and don't forget to GPS tag patients so there whereabouts are known.

    I have just come back from the GP totally demoralised and depressed which has now reduced me to tears, and no one around to talk to, because of the impersonal and robotic procedural treatment I received from him and no time to discuss my further issues and concerns. He is pleasant enough but just busy and obviously does not wish to get engaged in any sort of conversation.

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  • Does robots come equipped with the six Cs? :-)

    robotic care for the elderly and lonely who don't get enough care as it is! .-(

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  • Mike Burton

    The technology will be simply an extension of assistive technology that could already be in place. A hoist/sling/moving mechanism that requires only one carer; a medication reminder/prompt/dispenser that is an extension of the Nomad system; a toilet that wipes and cleans you after you have finished. All of the above already exist and are in use around the world.

    Human interaction will still exist.

    Taking your time to care costs too much money, it is as simple as that.

    We are bankrupt (morally as well as financially) so you might as well roll with it as the alternative is no longer an option.

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  • so with all this robotic labour saving devices what are all the people going to do. there will be less jobs as there will be need of less personal. more of the youth will take to the streets and the rest will sit all day in front of the telly or their other electronic devices, stuffing themselves silly and further adding to the lack of productivity had costly healthcare problems of the nation but then maybe life expectancy and birthrate will decrease, the population will shrink and demands on the services will lessen.

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  • 'robots aren't being designed to eliminate people' - I guess some think this is one way to solve the bed blocking crisis :)

    give me strength.

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  • after a career long caring for others I had hoped for a little better than this!

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  • Adapt!

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  • Iama Cynic | 4-May-2013 11:18 am

    how compassionate. the elderly are not so adaptable!

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  • should read 'not always so adaptable' as it may depend on their age, condition and circumstances. human beings have to be adaptable to survive but there are also limits!

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