We’ve talked a bit recently about new technological developments in the medical field. From great apps to podcasts to innovative medical devices, there seems to be something new popping up every single day. One of the most intriguing things we’ve seen recently are robots designed to assist in nursing tasks, such as the robotic nursing assistant developed by engineers and scientists at Duke and the RoNA developed by HStar Technologies. While this all feels very exciting and reminds us of the Jetsons, there are many questions and concerns about the impact of bringing in robots to handle jobs typically handled by humans.
One of the biggest concerns is what impact such technology will have on nursing. Their inventions are not touted as a replacement for skilled nursing care, but as an aid to those tasked with caring for those with highly communicable diseases, handling hazardous spills, assisting with the treatment of those who have compromised immune systems, or protecting nurses from injury when it comes time for lifting and moving immobile patients. Yes, robots may reduce the need for specialized staffing and equipment, such as lift teams and assistive devices, but for the most part, they do not seem to be a threat to those working in the medical field. Instead, they would help to prevent workplace injuries and decrease the risk of staff exposure when patients require isolation for a serious communicable disease.
Another important concern is direct patient care. Many worry that, by turning to robots and “artificial intelligence,” the personal quality of patient care will fall by the wayside. Though technology is developing rapidly, there is simply no substitution for patient care provided by a skilled nurse. Robots at this stage of discovery cannot be programmed or controlled to do more than just a few tasks to help care for patients. Human interaction would still be necessary for most procedures requiring direct physical contact, assessments requiring critical thinking, and other similar tasks that are crucial to patient care.
Others wonder about the expense of the equipment and training costs required to employ one of these robotic nursing assistants. While employing robotics in a medical facility will certainly incur costs when it comes to initial acquisition and ongoing training of new staff that would be controlling the technology, the costs would be balanced out by fewer injuries and illnesses among care providers and the need for less equipment throughout the facility for lifting patients and other tasks that can be handled by the robot.
While there are many questions still to be answered, watching the medical profession take these steps into the world of technology is exciting. Most of us have dreamt of a time when robots could make our lives easier, and it seems for those in the medical field, that time is beginning. It will be interesting to see what other new technology the coming years bring and how it can help to improve patient care and make the jobs of those in medical professions even easier and more satisfying.