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Robots in healthcare are becoming more of a reality

Published on: 25-08-0022

Dutch Minister Of Health and Wellness, Conny Helder predicts that video conferencing and robots will become the norm for elder care in the future. This, she says is necessary to make care less expensive and less labor-intensive. But is it realistic?

The Minister was speaking in July, at the launch of the Living, Support and Care for Older People programme (Dutch: Wonen, Ondersteuning en Zorg voor Ouderen – WOZO), a partnership between the Ministry and private sector organisations. The new programme wants to ensure that support and care for older people adapt to individual  preferences so they can maintain control over their own lives for as long as possible and that heavy, complex care demands are postponed or even avoided for as long as possible.

Change is happening fast

Vilans Senior Researcher, Henk Herman Nap agrees, adding that the change is happening faster than you think. “It is certainly a challenge, but under pressure from the major challenges in healthcare it is going faster and faster. To prevent people from being left out of the healthcare system, we need to change course and work more remotely and via digital channels.” He says several systems are already being tested in current practice. 

For example in the GUARDIAN project. In this project, we are developing a social robot that can reduce the burden on informal carers by interacting with older people living at home. The three-year project began in February 2020 and is a collaboration between Vilans and national and international partners. Zorggroep Noordwest-Veluwe (ZNWV) is now starting to test it. The care robot serves as a companion and communicates with users in the comfort of their own home. It reminds them to eat, drink or take medication and helps provide daily structure.

Henk Herman Nap, Senior Researcher

Care technology examples

For concrete examples of healthcare technology and what the costs and benefits of these technologies are, Nap refers to the Digital Care Knowledge Bank. With the Digital Care Knowledge Bank, organisations can benefit from each other’s experiences. For example, one healthcare provider can make use of another organisation’s pilot design. By sharing experiences, we can also achieve unity in methodology, language and research. This makes it possible to layer small studies from different organisations and draw firmer conclusions about the added value of care technology.

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