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Developing an exoskeleton for the care worker

Published on: 06-11-2023

Vilans is testing an exoskeleton for Anders Werken in de Zorg (AgeTech Works), a Dutch programme in West-Brabant in which regional organisations work together to test various technologies to better prepare healthcare for the future.

Xandra van Megen, designer and researcher of digital care at Vilans:

“The current exoskeleton is currently mainly used in industry, by plasterers, for example, and in greenhouse horticulture. There, it has certainly proven itself to relieve physical strain on people in construction. Healthcare is also quite physical work: When you have to turn all those people in bed or bend over a lot, things like that.”

The exoskeleton can help with lifting and bending

“The idea arose from the care organisation whether such an exoskeleton could also help their workers to lighten the work. We see quite a lot of back problems in the sector. Perhaps we can use it to ease the pain, even prevent these complaints in the future and reintegrate people using an exoskeleton. So far, it looks like the exoskeleton can help with things like lifting and bending forward. It works with springs, which give you extra support in getting back up. This reduces the strain on your back and muscles.”

“At the moment the exoskeleton is being tested at 3 care institutions and we (Vilans) are supervising this process. At the same time, we are researching what stage this technology is at and so on, according to the Honeycomb Model we developed. If it turns out that it works well and can be scaled up, we will also test it within the other organisations.”

Not yet female-friendly

“But there are still things to be done before we can really deploy it. Until now, the exoskeleton has been used a lot in the construction industry, and that is mainly a man’s world. We also notice that with this skeleton: it is not really female-friendly yet. We will have to work with physiotherapists and doctors to look at adjustments so that it can be used properly and on a large scale in healthcare. But so far we are satisfied with the outcome of our research.”

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