Is My Doctor a Robot?
It seems as though engineering a robotic solution for just about anything comes easily for Japan. One of the big issues the country currently faces is a rapidly aging population. The last few years have seen Japan's birth rate undergo a steady decline. Last year it reached a record low with just over a million births. This trend, combined with the fact that Japan also has the longest life expectancy in the world, is creating an imbalance in the country's working population.
Currently, Japan is in need of young nurses. The country has embarked on encouraging a baby boom in order to source a young demographic that will be able to provide – among many other things – good quality health-care for their elderly. But although this particular resolution is the most effective method to redevelop a sustainable population, it will not remedy the country's health-care predicament with the immediacy desired. So, in light of this, the Japanese have resorted to what they know best – robotics.
Terapio would be one of the more recent examples. It is a medical robotic assistant constructed by researchers at Toyohashi University of Technology and is designed to assist doctors and nurses with the massive workloads they handle daily. Terapio can undertake many of the more mundane tasks performed by health-care workers, like collecting vitals and patient data. This allows doctors and nurses to give a better degree of personal attention to their patients.
To make retrieving medical histories and accessing patient records simpler and faster, many of Japan's medical facilities use Electronic Medical Records (EMR), but entering patient information onto EMR systems takes a lot of time since the task has to be done manually. Terapio can help with this. The robotic assistant can be programmed to follow nurses as they make their rounds. It can recognize potentially dangerous medicine combinations, possible allergies, as well as narrow down plausible diagnosis based on recorded patient symptoms. Inputting patient data directly into the EMR system has been made easy by the touch display panel featured on top of the robot. And when the display isn't showing data, it portrays a friendly robot face which can convey a variety of affable expressions.
Japan also revealed the latest edition of the Robot for Interactive Body Assistance (RIBA) earlier this year. RIBA, which acquired the nickname Robobear due to its cute bear-like head, was developed over six years ago and was built to gently help patients move from seated to upright positions and lift them into or out of bed. Already utilized in many of the country's health-care institutions, robotic medical and nursing assistants like Terapio and RIBA will soon become a common sight in Japan and, inevitably, in medical institutions all around the world.
So the next time you go for your check-up, visit Grandma at the nursing home, or find yourself planted in a hospital bed, you shouldn't be surprised to find a friendly robotic assistant roaming around the place doing its bit to improve the care of the resident patients.
About Mvusi Ngubane
I am: A shoddy idealist or a fantasist in denial. A writer & creator of content. A storyteller, a story-seeker and, occasionally, a conveyor of obscure perspectives. http://pyrosel.blogspot.com