It started out with the realization that the world wide web just celebrated its 20th birthday. Can it really be 20 years ago? At launch, there were only 17 “subjects” on the Web, including music, law, religion, and literature. Today the internet is so ubiquitous that we take it for granted…unless of course it goes down, at which point we literally become paralyzed.
So I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised to hear that robots are ready to take over patient care. Yes, I know that many of them already perform surgery, but hands-on patient care?
Apparently, roboticists are developing machines that can help patients with tasks, such as housework, feeding and walking. And, according to a Georgia Institute of Technology study, more than half of healthcare providers said that if they were offered an assistant, they would prefer it to be robotic rather than human.
However, they don’t want robots to help with everything. Activities of daily living such as helping with housework and reminding patients when to take medication, were acceptable, but activities involving direct, physical interactions such as bathing, getting dressed and feeding, were considered better for human assistants.
This study mirrored the lab’s earlier research that found older people are generally willing to accept help from robots, but their preferences depended on the task. These tech-savvy seniors said they preferred robotic help over human help for chores such as cleaning and doing laundry. However, they preferred human help with bathing and getting dressed.
“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,” said Tracy Mitzner, one of the study’s leaders and the associate director of Georgia Tech’s Human Factors and Aging Laboratory. “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.”
For instance, nurses preferred a robot to help them lift patients from a bed to a chair. They also indicated that robotic assistants could be helpful with some medical tasks such as checking vitals. Just like the internet it seems robots are going to take over our lives.