With an increasingly ageing population, the growth in individuals living with long-term health conditions and the shortages of qualified health and care professionals, there is extra demand and pressure on health and social care resources.
To maintain high levels of care, we need to look for new methods to support us and our wellbeing.
Technology can address some of these issues by providing additional assistance and resources, not to replace human contact and care altogether.
“Robots can be used as assistive technologies, and form part of an emerging market with increasing impact; from supporting patients’ cognitive abilities to providing remote monitoring of their health status and support in activities of daily living.
Assistive robots have the potential to change the way we perceive and treat a range of impairments and conditions, and how we actively support those in need.”
Humanoid robots are essentially robots that mimic the human form. Used for research and space exploration, personal assistance and caregiving, education and entertainment, search and rescue, manufacturing and maintenance, public relations, and healthcare. Developing robots in human form means that they can be programmed to use tools and the environment as a human.
Human beings also find it easier to control a robot that is in the same form as ourselves.
For health and care, the opportunities for developing humanoid robots that can assist with daily living, such as reminding us to take medication, guiding us in unfamiliar places or encouraging us to eat healthier and exercise are endless. These robots can also help with therapy and social engagement.
More humanoid robots will become available on the market, as more companies design and adapt these technologies. We hope that this drives the price down and enables the widespread purchase to extend to support caregivers in their day to day activities.
Studies have shown that the interaction between ageing adults and animals — whether real or robotic — can help lower blood pressure, ease anxiety, reduce feelings of loneliness, and improve overall quality of life.
The benefits of companion pets are thought to be based on ‘pet therapy’ or animal-assisted therapy. However, introducing live animals into care homes can be problematic. Using robotic companion pets can be a solution.
The current options for companion pets that can modify their behaviour to suit the user and combine animal therapy with an interactive system are fairly expensive and as a result not an option for many.
Intelligence assistants use the power of artificial intelligence and the internet to provide an organic way of accessing information and delivering services. Smart speakers are equipped with voice recognition and can respond to natural language commands.
Apps, websites and data sources could also be accessed via these smart speakers which adds additional value for those who are not skilled at using digital devices as they can access via voice commands.
Patients can use the devices to remind them to take medication, or deliver information such as needle collection as well as ease of managing calendars for appointments and renewing prescriptions.
The use of voice-activated devices in the home can also enable people with mobility, sight or dexterity issues to turn on other devices such as lighting, music and entertainment devices using speech.
Telepresence robots can be thought of as embodied video conferencing on wheels. These remote-controlled systems allow a user to virtually visit places and interact with the environment through its sensorial and motor capabilities.
They can be used in a wide variety of situations, from ad-hoc conversations at the office, inspections, and troubleshooting at factories, to patient rounds at medical facilities or visiting family in eldercare centres. This robotic market is booming offering to users a different range of sizes, features, and prices.
These type of robots enable you to connect you with those that matter the most to you.
Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer simulation of a three-dimensional (3D) environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real way by using a Virtual Reality headset.
These can be used through smartphones and apps making them accessible to many, without incurring a large expense, or there are specially designed immersive consoles that are available, but perhaps not for use in the home.
Users can experience activities that they have enjoyed previously but can no longer take part in, haven’t encountered before due to physical restrictions, or as a learning tool.
Patients can use immersive VR apps that offer a range of environments and experiences:
Children who may have a fear or anxiety of going to hospital can have a VR experience to know what to expect through apps such as Little Journey.
Depression, fear and anxiety symptoms can be elevated through distraction and relaxation, by immersing in calm and peaceful environments.
To combat social isolation, for patients with physical disabilities, long term health conditions, frailty, and even dementia.
Patients with Autism can use the technology to help develop skills to promote independence.
Healthcare professionals can use VR to learn new skills without causing danger to patients, for example medical and surgical training.
Apps and mobile health (mHealth) are an area of eHealth, specifically being the provision of health services and information via mobile technologies.
There are now 325,000 mHealth apps available through Google play and Apple app store.
There are various bespoke apps for managing different areas of health; exercise, nutrition, mental health, diabetes, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and cardiovascular diseases. The NHS has launched a digital apps library which is under beta testing and has been designed to showcase a number apps.
The health secretary has called for the development and use of more apps to support the NHS.
The potential benefits from using apps appears endless, especially when more apps are created, used, improved and trusted.
From cutting down on unnecessary appointments, sharing data with primary health practitioners to putting patients at the centre of their own care - Apps are seen as a game changer for the future of health and care delivery.
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