www.Can-I-Help-You-With-That?

worldwideweb-20thbday-top640There’s days when reading the news makes you feel old. Today is one of those days.

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. iphone

Next, I heard that Apple has just declared the first iPhone obsolete.  Really?  What was considered so cutting edge a few short years ago is now obsolete!

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.”

robot giving medicationFor 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. feeling oldJust like the internet it seems robots are going to take over our lives.

Not sure that I’m looking forward to a future where doctors have been replaced by nurses who have been replaced by robots… SRxA-logo for web

“Ouchless” Flu Vaccine

Instead of getting a BandAid after your flu shot, a new delivery patch could actually allow people to receive their vaccine this way.

The patches contain hundreds of tiny little needles, so small you don’t even feel them, that dissolve into the skin and release the vaccine. The result –  simplified immunization programs. By eliminating the use of needles and syringes, three of the biggest problems simply disappear.

  • fear of needles
  • disposal of leftover needles and syringes
  • the need for trained medical personnel

The microneedle patches are applied like a BandAid and could allow self-administration of vaccine during pandemics as well as in schools and assisted-living facilities.  They could also simplify large-scale immunization programs in developing nations.

Researchers led by Professor Mark Prausnitz of Georgia Institute of Technology reported their research on microneedles in Sunday’s edition of Nature Medicine.

The business side of the patch apparently feels like fine sandpaper. In tests,  people rated the discomfort at 1/10th – 1/20th that of getting a standard injection. In other words, nearly everyone said it was painless.

The patch, which has been tested on mice, was developed in collaboration by researchers at Georgia Tech and Emory University. The work was supported by the National Institute of Health. The researchers are now seeking funds to begin tests in people and, if all goes well, the patch could be in use in five years.

Flu vaccination is recommended for nearly everyone, every year. According to Prausnitz, “Many people don’t get the shot because it’s inconvenient, but if they could get it in the mail or at the pharmacy they might do so.” The patch is placed on the skin and left for 5  to 15 minutes although it can remain longer without doing any damage.

Asked if the term “microneedle” might still frighten some folks averse to shots, Prausnitz said he was confident that marketers would come up with a better term before any sales began.

SRxA’s Word on Health challenges you to come up with some creative ideas.