Robots that care for patients arrive in hospitals

Robots designed to provide comfort to elderly patients and relieve their anxiety have been successfully tested in a Paris hospital: they greet, answer questions, understand group conversations and support nursing tasks.

Researchers from several universities in Europe and the Middle East have tested eight robots developed by the company PAL Robotics Spain and found that they were able to perform routine tasks in the healthcare environment, such as greeting patients, giving directions, and answering questions.

During initial testing in Assistance Publique Hopitaux de ParisFrance, SPRING robots (Social Assistance Robots in Gerontological Healthcare) were also shown to understand group conversations and patient needs.

The robots are designed to provide comfort to elderly patients and alleviate their anxiety, while reducing the burden on nursing staff in crowded environments.

The Paris trials have provided key insights into how this emerging technology can improve care delivery and safety while promoting innovations in areas such as computer vision, audio processing, and human-robot interaction. that have potential for future global applications, their developers highlight.

Hospital improvement

Researchers hope that robots, which also help with routine tasks, can free up time for hospital staff and ease patients’ anxiety.

By performing simple but repetitive tasks, the robots also reduced potential physical contact between doctors and patients as part of the trial.

For this reason, early feedback suggests that the use of social care robots can reduce the risk of infection while increasing the productivity of nurses and doctors.

The Paris test was carried out by personnel from the National Robotarium based in Edinburgh, whose AI professor, Oliver Lemonhe said in a release that such rapid advances in technology “open up a world of possibilities for its positive impact.”

“One of the most important contributions of robotics and AI is their ability to conserve resources and alleviate human workload,” Lemon added.

“The prospect of robots seamlessly collaborating with hospital staff to improve the patient experience is now closer to reality,” he concludes.

Closer to reality

Anxiety and uncertainty can often precede a hospital visit and it is understood that this behavior may be more pronounced in elderly patients, with up to 20% of older adults suffering from the condition.

It is expected that the availability of helpful, socially intelligent robots that can converse and answer initial screening questions, while relieving busy hospital staff, could prove extremely beneficial in clinical settings.

The prospect of robots seamlessly collaborating with hospital staff to improve the patient experience is now closer to reality.

Technological pillars

The Spanish company that developed these robots, PAL Robitics, was created in Barcelona in 2004 and develops custom and modular robotic platforms that fit the needs of a wide variety of sectors. In addition to the SPRING project, he also participates in OpenDR, another EU-funded project, which develops open source software tools to optimize robotics capabilities in various sectors, including healthcare, education and industrial automation.

The feasibility of implementing the SPRING project has been possible thanks to academics from the National Robotarium, who have made important advances in the development of large language models (LLM) that allow robots to be able to maintain natural and fluid conversations with groups of people. .

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