Robots: The future of home healthcare?

 In Medical Product Design

Technology has completely transformed the way medical professionals deliver care over the last few decades. Electronic health records, 3D printing, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence are among some of the digital devices advancing the healthcare sector, and will continue to do so into the future. The presence and utilization of robots in medical settings is also emerging, and may become a staple in home healthcare.

Despite the negative reputation technology may have with older adults, those in home healthcare are excited and willing to embrace such innovations, according to research by the Department of Biomedical Informatics and Health Education at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

The future of home healthcare
The researchers examined adults split into three age group ranges, 18 to 44, 45 to 64 and 65 and older, to understand their demeanor regarding robotic technology and how it could take vital signs and provide personal care and medical advice. Even with the stereotype surrounding older adults and technology, the researchers found that all age groups were open to these advancements and the idea of welcoming robots into the home healthcare setting.

"Researchers found all age groups were open to welcoming robots into their homes."

"What I was surprised to find with this study is that there wasn't a big gap between older and younger people as far as their acceptance and perceived usefulness for robots," lead researcher Mandi Hall of the University of Washington School of Medicine told Home Health Care News.

Testing an affordable robot
While the previous data is based on the concept of bringing robots into home healthcare, a Virginia-based technology company began rolling out its first model robot, "Rudy," an affordable option that is designed to accompany seniors and help them age from the comfort of their own homes. Known as Comfort Keepers of Reston, these multi-functioning robot companions can perform injections, wound care and ostomy care and more, according to Home Healthcare News.

At the average height of a 10-year-old child, Rudy can also provide light in dark areas, call emergency numbers for help, carry objects, set reminders and notify family members or friends on demand. Rudy can work on its own, or it can be controlled by a nurses aide of family member from an app. The robot takes the lead and provides care to the older adult, making note of medication usage, response times and more.

"Rudy is for when the aide is not there," Comfort Keepers of Reston co-owner Toni Reinhart told Home Health Care News. "If Rudy says to you, 'Good morning, it's time to take your medication,' then you have to tell Rudy you took it. If you don't do that, my nurses are going to see a red alert."

What's best about this option is how affordable and accessible it is. According to a recent Genworth Cost of Carey Survey, the average cost of a home health aide in 2017 was $4,099. Rudy is only slightly more expensive, costing nearly $5,000. So what is it that makes Rudy the more efficient option? Live-in caregivers are even more expensive – 24-hour care is twice the price of a normal home health aide – and they're expected to wake up in the middle of the night and regroup before they can provide assistance to their clients, which isn't as efficient. The automated services that Rudy provides eliminates this issue, assisting seniors in need within a matter of minutes.

The ultimate goal is to provide seniors with the most efficient option for care available. By following digital trends and making the transition from human caregiver to automated care provider, older adults can receive affordable, effective care on demand better than ever before.

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