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Nurse-bots: A Solution or a Threat!

(Last Updated On: January 18, 2019)

The Nursing Shortage Problem

With the never ending advancements in technology, and medicine, it’s no wonder humans are living longer. By 2050, one fifth of the world’s population will be at least 60, almost double that of year 2000. Thus, governments are pressed to solve the nursing shortage problem.

Nurse Robots to the Forefront

With the future in mind, Japan was one of the first to design robotic nurses for surgical and nursing assistance. Its government has already identified and outlined the need for four robot types:

  • motorized robots for carrying patients
  • ambulatory robots for assisting patients in walking
  • portable self cleaning assistants
  • monitoring robots that track dementia patients in case they get lost.

Why, there are even robots for empathy!

Naming a few, we have:

 Paro: the humanoid therapy robot who wonders hospital halls playing games, singing and interacting with residents. It can answer your questions, smile, and wink.

Therapeutic Robot
Paro, the therapeutic robot

 Cody, another robot who takes care of showering and bathing patients, while Penelope, a voice controlled nurse-bot finds, delivers, retrieves surgical instruments and double checks surgical inventory.

Codi, a robot who performs bed baths for patients.

RoNA, the indispensable robotic nurse assistant who helps in lifting and transporting patients easing the burden off real nurses’ backs.

There’s also surgical assistant, Da Vinci who helps doctors perform complex laparoscopic surgeries, i.e. keyhole surgeries, with its four remotely controlled arms.  It enables the doctor to view a 3D high resolution image of the surgical site through small incisions, miniaturized wristed instruments and a camera. The doctor then fully controls the process via hand movements that the robot translates into precise micro movements.

The Arab World- a Definite In

Fortunately, all this technology doesn’t seem far from the Arab world. AUBMC has already acquired the da Vinci robot last year.  The UAE is also using robots to perform accurate coronary angioplasty where clogged arteries have to be opened through stents or small tubes.  Some hospitals have even started using robots for communication. One such example is VGo. VGo allows family members to be virtually present at the patients’ bedside even if they are distant. It can help change the lives of kids suffering from congenital conditions by enabling  patients to take a virtual tour of the surroundings without actually being present there; its advantage over other video solutions lies in its full remote control mobility

Future Concerns

However, though robots allow for pinpoint accuracy, and wonderful nursing assistance, it is still unclear whether they can replace nurses. Will they be able to make decisions the way humans do? Will they be able to understand why some patients refuse to take a certain medication?  What would happen once they malfunction and topple over someone? Are people really looking forward to spend their remaining years on earth face to face with a robot??

Also published on Medium.

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