Can you manage a robot?

When I was a kid I was promised by the media and entertainment industries two things, we would all wear the same clothes with metallic rings around the shoulders and we all would have robots helping us by the year 2000. I am still waiting on the uniform, but the robot thing may be getting closer.

In an aim to help alleviate their nursing shortage, researchers at Japan’s Institute of Physical and Chemical Research have created a teddy bear looking robot nurse that can help lift and move patients that weigh up to 135 lbs. The robot is called RIBA (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance) and is an upgrade from a previous model that could only lift 40lbs.

It has a soft skin and can recognize voices and faces. It will also follow spoken commands and is built to maneuver in tight spaces, like a hospital room.

I can see where this would be a big help in reducing the nursing shortage here in the United States if it lifted more than 135 lbs (which I imagine is in the works). People under 135 lbs is a very small percentage of American patients. But overall think of all the nurses who could stay in the field longer and the new ones that may enter it if were not for the physical strain nursing can place on a body. This means that nurses would be able to spend more time focusing on the clinical level of patient care.

I don’t know about how much one of these robots costs, but you would think there have to be some substantial cost savings that would come from this. Between retraining staff, lost time and Workman’s comp cost from injuries from lifting and the ability to need less nurses and nurses aids to move patients, the savings would seem to be there.

Over at Reality Rounds is a pretty funny response to the idea. What about you? Would you like to see this at your hospital?