'Healthbots' roll out in Gore

  • 11/03/2013

By 3 News online staff

A health service in Gore will become the first in the country to deploy a small team of 'healthbots' to help older people in their homes, and to assist with pre-appointment checks.

From mid-March, three small robots and one larger model will be used by Gore Health – a community-owned private health provider.

The smaller robots are designed for home use, and can remind people when and how to take medication, provide entertainment, and can be used to call for help. People can also use the robots to make one-click Skype calls to family, friends or medical staff.

The larger robot will be stationed at Gore Health's GP services to perform health checks on patients before they visit the doctor. The doctor's computer can receive information, including on a patient's blood pressure and heart rate, directly from the robot.

Gore Health chief executive Karl Metzler says they're trying to transform the delivery of healthcare in rural New Zealand.

"We want to improve heath care and outcomes for the local population by using innovative health technology along with work-force skills development and process improvements," he says.

The healthbots use software which has been developed at the University of Auckland and trialled at Auckland's Selwyn Retirement Village, as part of the Robotic Healthcare project.

The project has been running since 2006 as a joint venture between a Korean research laboratory, the University of Auckland and UniServices.

Project leader Associate Professor Bruce MacDonald, from the department of electrical and computer engineering, says older people were surveyed in order to find out what they thought the healthbots should be able to do, and what they should look like.

"They found people would most like robots to help by alerting falls, calling for help, switching on and off appliances, cleaning, making phone calls to a doctor or nurse, lifting heavy things, monitoring the location of people, and reminders to take medication," says Dr MacDonald.

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source: newshub archive