I've heard a lot of talk about nurses being replaced by robots. Is it possible that this is happening? - Yes, it is and robots already play a significant role in the patients care.
In response to a well-documented shortage of nurses and direct-care staff all around the world, which is expected to become more problematic as the elderly population grows, the study effects of high patient-to-nurse ratio, Aiken et al. showed that each additional patient per nurse was associated with a 7% increase in patient mortality and a 23% increase in nurse burnout. Consequently, studies have suggested that lowering the patient-to-nurse ratio would result in less missed patient care. Demand for assisting robots that help nurses to complete their daily tasks will likely increase in the coming years. Thanks to their human-safe and clinically superior system, robots enable a better health care.
Japan's rapidly aging population, combined with the longest life expectancy in the world, creates one of the biggest problems the country's health care system faces. In the short term, it will become more difficult to provide quality care to an increasingly elderly demographic. Despite the fact that Japan isn;t the only country facing this problem, the country in nonetheless a leader in developing robots that can assist nurses with the workloads they handle every day.
Developed by Japanese research institute Riken, the "Robear", the third prototype in six years, is a strong and agile enough robot that gently lifts a patient from a bed to a wheelchair, or helps them get from a sitting to a standing position. A YouTube video by Riken shows Robear slowly embracing and lifting men as they hug its head, which resembles that of a cartoon polar bear. As for its cute bear face, research leader Toshiharu Mukai says, "The polar cub-like look is aimed at radiating an atmosphere of strength, geniality and cleanliness at the same time. Robear will lead to advances in nursing care, relieving the burden on care-givers today. We intend to continue with research toward more piratical robots capable of providing powerful yet gentle care to elderly people."
Another example comes from researchers at Toyohashi University of Technology in Japan. They have developed "Terapio", a medical robotic assistant that helps nurses collect patient data and vital signs. This allows the nurses to give more personal attention to their patient. There's a touch display on the top to input collected data straight into the patient's EMR. Patient records, history, and medications are available instantly on the robot's display for reference. Terapio can recognize possible allergies and potentially dangerous medication interactions. Very naturally, when not displaying data, the display shows the Terapio's "face", offering a friendly smile and changing the shape of its eyes to convey emotion.
I think a lot of you will agree with me that the line between robot nurses and humans cuts through the ethics of their use and becomes blurred as the machine/robot is designed in many cases to replace rather than assist nurses and health professionals in the delivery of health care. Hopefully, you won't be lying in a hospital bed any time soon - but if you do, don't be surprised if the next smiling face you see belongs to a cartoon polar bear nurse robot.