DiversityNursing Blog

Robots Designed To Help Nurses, Not Replace Them

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Tue, Jan 03, 2017 @ 03:47 PM

IMG_9931.jpgBy 2021, robots will have a growing presence in healthcare. That doesn't mean less Nursing positions, but more assistance and safety. Think of robots used to detonate bombs instead of sending in a human to do it. These robots would be dealing with high risk patients with infectious diseases. 
They can also help Nurses with lifting patients and heavy objects, and they can handle the staffing. Does this sound like a good idea to you? Would you feel comfortable implementing robotics into your work place? 

A grant from the National Science Foundation has led engineering and nursing students at Duke University to create a robotic “nurse” to assist human nurses, according to an article published in the News & Observer. The robots are being tested as “alternatives to human contact to diminish risks for providers,” who are caring for patients with infectious diseases.

“We are not trying to replace nurses,” Margie Molloy, an assistant nursing professor, said in the article, explaining they are trying to create a safer environment for healthcare providers.

The first-generation robot called “Trina” (Tele-Robotic Intelligent Nursing Assistant) can perform tasks, albeit clumsily at present, such as delivering a cup, a bowl, pills and a stethoscope to a patient. Its face is a computer screen on which an actual nurse’s face appears.

In the fall, students conducted a simulation with a fake patient using the remote-controlled robot, which has a price tag of $85,000.

Plans for the next generation of Trina include giving her a “more friendly and human-like appearance” and enabling her to collect and test fluids, the article stated.

“We need to establish a better interface with the human and the robot to make them work together and be more comfortable,” Jianqiao Li, engineering student, said in the article.

A Business Wire article stated that by 2021 robots will be a growing presence in the healthcare system, surpassing 10,000 units annually.

“More than 200 companies are already active in various aspects of the healthcare robotics market,” said principal analyst Wendell Chun, in the article. “These industry players are creating highly specialized devices for a wide range of applications, and the use cases will continue to expand as costs decline and healthcare providers recognize the early successes of robots in supporting high-quality care and a range of ancillary services.”

MIT has been teaching robots to assist nurses with scheduling. A robot can observe humans working on a labor and delivery floor and then formulate an efficient schedule for staff, according to the July 2016 MIT News article.

Nurses’ positive comments about the robot included that it would “allow for a more even dispersion of workload” and that it would be helpful to new nurses who are acclimating to their roles.

“A great potential of this technology is that good solutions can be spread more quickly to many hospitals and workplaces,” Dana Kulic, an associate professor of computer engineering at the University of Waterloo, said in the article. “For example, innovative improvements can be distributed rapidly from research hospitals to regional health centers.”

Another robot project funded by the NSF is developing robots to help nurses lift patients and heavy objects.

“The proposed Adaptive Robotic Nurse Assistants will navigate cluttered hospitals, while equipped with multimodal skin sensors that can anticipate nurse intent, automate mundane low-level tasks, but keep nurses in the decision loop,” according to an award abstract. “Modular and strong hardware will be deployed in reconfigurable platforms specially designed for nurse physical assistance.”

Related Article: A Robot Delivers Meds at Dana-Farber

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Topics: robot, robotics

A Robot Delivers Meds at Dana-Farber

Posted by Pat Magrath

Tue, Oct 25, 2016 @ 12:18 PM

danarobot.jpgTechnology continues to make strides in both our professional and personal lives. This article is about a robot that’s being tested to deliver medication to chemo patients, thus eliminating the step of having to wait in line for medication after a very lengthy day of chemo. This is a new technology being tested at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and patients are enthusiastic about it.
 
There have been a few hiccups, but overall it’s seen as a time saver for patients as well as the pharmacy department. Let us know your thoughts about whether you think this is a good idea.

It’s an unusual sight in the halls of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: Alongside doctors, nurses, and patients, a robot about the size of a washing machine quietly glides through the hospital, a bright light marking its presence.

Dana-Farber executives have high hopes for “Lucy,” one of the newest technologies in use at Boston’s best-known cancer center. Lucy is being developed to deliver prescription drugs directly to patients while they sit in infusion rooms receiving chemotherapy — a treatment that can take many hours. If the system works, it will save patients the time and trouble of having to stand in line to pick up their prescriptions at a pharmacy after an already long and draining day of treatment.

“We want Lucy to be able to improve the patient’s experience while they’re here all day,” said Sylvia Bartel, vice president of pharmacy at Dana-Farber. “Their last stop is usually coming to the outpatient pharmacy and picking up a prescription. They finish their chemotherapy, they have to wait in a line, so we felt like there had to be a way for us to efficiently deliver the [medications] using technology.”

Dana-Farber began testing the technology in 2013, after getting a phone call from executives at Vecna Technologies, the Cambridge-based company that developed the robot and was looking to expand its health care business. The Boston cancer center is one of just a few hospitals in the world using the machine.

Lucy is equipped with a touchscreen, a scanner, and compartments for stocking drugs. There is no attempt to give it human features, other than a voice only used occasionally. For now, the robot doesn’t interact with patients, only with hospital staff. It moves drugs around the Longwood area hospital, making about a dozen trips a day, using Wi-Fi-connected software to open doors and use service elevators.

Lucy isn’t glitch-free. It has ended up on the wrong floor before. On one recent afternoon, its movements were halting. Another day, it was out of service because of a connectivity problem.

Even so, Carlos Verrier, business operations manager in Dana-Farber’s pharmacy, said Lucy has helped make the pharmacy more productive. The hospital pharmacy is a busy place, processing some 400 scrips a day.

“It’s really allowing the staff to do more of what they’re trained to do... and not having to take them away to do a delivery,” Verrier said. “They spend more time on clinical aspects of their job than on delivering medication.”

Deborah Theobald, Vecna’s chief executive, said there’s a lot of potential for using such robots to move sensitive items around a hospital. Robots can move potent, expensive drugs around a building more safely and securely than humans, she said. Their every move can be easily tracked.

Vecna’s QC Bot costs roughly $150,000. Theobald acknowledged that hospital executives may need some persuading before they’re ready to give it a try.

“There’s an education process to get them over the hump and see the [return on investment],” she said. “People really appreciate robots once you get over the education hurdle. People don’t want to go back.”

Anne Tonachel, a former patient and current volunteer at Dana-Farber, has seen Lucy moving around the halls and quickly become a fan.

Tonachel is an ovarian cancer survivor who vividly remembers the pain of receiving chemotherapy treatment for many hours at a time. The treatments left her feeling too sick to pick up prescriptions from the pharmacy. Tonachel said she would have loved to skip that step by having a robot deliver prescriptions directly to her.

“No one would mind having Lucy show up at their bed or chair side,” she said. “In fact, her arrival might add a bit of interest to the day and bring a few smiles.”

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Topics: robot, artificial intelligence, Dana-Farber, medical technology

College Kids Make Robotic Arms For Children Without Real Ones

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Tue, Mar 10, 2015 @ 12:39 PM

 Daphne Sashin

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By the time Cynthia Falardeau read about Alex Pring, a little boy who got a battery-powered robotic arm last summer, she had made peace with her son Wyatt's limb difference. 

Her premature baby had been born with his right arm tangled in amniotic bands. At a week old, doctors amputated his dead forearm and hand. They were afraid his body would be become infected and he would die. Falardeau mourned her boy's missing arm for years but, in time, embraced her son as he was. 

Wyatt also learned to adapt. They tried a couple of prosthetics when he was younger and each time the toddler abandoned the false limb within months. 

"His main interest was to create a shocking response from onlookers by pulling it off in the grocery store," Falardeau wrote on CNN iReport. In truth, she had been more concerned about getting him therapy for his autism-related delays -- the limb difference was secondary.

So when a friend shared a story from the "Today Show" with Wyatt in mind, about a team of University of Central Florida (UCF) students and graduates that made an electronic arm for 6-year-old Pring using a three-dimensional printer on campus, Falardeau was defensive. 

"He doesn't need this," she thought. 

Her fifth-grader had a different reaction: "I want one of these robot arms!" Falardeau remembers Wyatt telling her and her husband. "I could ride a bike! I might even be able to paddle a kayak!" 

There were other things the 12-year-old boy said he would do if he had two hands. A proper somersault. Clap with two hands. Dance with a pretty girl with one hand on her back and the other leading. Stuff she hadn't really thought about but he clearly had.

Falardeau got in touch with the Orlando students through E-Nable, an online volunteer organization started by Rochester Institute of Technology research scientist Jon Schull to match people who have 3-D printers with children in need of hands and arms. The organization creates and shares bionic arm designs for free download at EnablingTheFuture.org that can be assembled for as little as $20 to $50. Middle and high school student groups and Girl and Boy Scout troops are among those donating their time and materials to assemble limbs for kids and give them to recipients for free.

The UCF team, which operates a nonprofit called Limbitless Solutions, is special because it's the only group in the 3-D volunteer network making electronic arms. Most 3-D arms are mechanical, which presents a challenge for children without elbows. With mechanical arms, the child opens and closes their hand by bending their elbow. The students came up with the idea for an electronic arm with a muscle sensor that allows the child to open and close their hand by flexing their bicep.

"It's really just a step-by-step process of solving problems. The first problem we solved was: how do we make the hand move electronically? And then: how do we attach this arm to a child?" said sophomore Tyler Petresky. "It's just one problem after another we keep solving. That's what engineering is all about." 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 1,500 babies in the United States are born with upper limb deformities each year. Comprehensive statistics aren't available for the number of children with amputations, such as Wyatt. 

The UCF project started when Albert Manero, an engineering doctoral student, heard a story on the radio about one of the inventors of the 3-D printed hand. He got involved with E-Nable and met Alex, a local boy teased because of his missing arm, and set about designing a robotic replacement. They gave it to Alex for free. 

"My mother taught us that we're supposed to help change the world," Manero said at the time."We're supposed to help make it better." 

The students were blown away by what happened after that. The "Today Show" and other national news outlets featured stories about Alex and Manero, and then they got international attention. Families in more than 25 countries have asked the UCF students to help their children. In February, Microsoft highlighted the team in a social media campaign celebrating students using technology to change the world.

Each electronic limb takes about 30 to 50 hours to make and assemble. The students use the printer in the school's manufacturing lab and cover the cost of materials -- about $350 -- through donations.

Petresky got involved with the design of Pring's hand because Manero knew he was good with electronics. 

"He bribed me with some pulled pork sandwiches. I went over to his house and helped him out with electronics," he said. "I found out he was working on an arm, and I thought that was the coolest thing in the world."

Eventually Manero moved to Germany for a Fulbright scholarship and left Petresky in charge of running the operations in Orlando.

Petresky says they ask every family about the child's favorite color, superhero and interests, so the new limb can "not just be a piece of plastic ... but be a part of them." 

As they've designed the bionics, they've learned that kids don't necessarily want to blend in. Children have requested colorful designs inspired by superheroes, Disney's "Frozen," and in Wyatt's case, the blue-skinned men from "Blue Man Group." For Christmas, the group upgraded Alex's plain vanilla white arm to a new one resembling Optimus Prime from "Transformers."

"We quickly found out this is much less about fitting in and feeling normal, and much more about expressing yourself," Petresky said. "There's a large aspect of being artistic and being creative."

The team has made electronic arms for five children and are working with three more kids including Wyatt. He traveled with his mom to UCF last week and practiced flexing his muscle to make the hand open and close.

He expects to get fitted with his new arm later this month.

His mom, Cynthia, was most excited about seeing Wyatt being celebrated for who he is.

"The adoration of college students was an affirmation that money can't buy. He was wrapped in the joy of leading and advising students on how to help children like himself," she wrote in her iReport. "Wyatt felt like he was making a difference for himself and other children."

As they got ready to leave the campus, her son told her he can't wait to see what he will accomplish with his new arm. And someday, he said, he wants to go to UCF and help other kids like him.

Source: www.cnn.com

Topics: health, technology, college, children, patients, students, medical, robotic, limbs, robot, robotic arm, 3-D printer

Artificially Intelligent Robot Scientist 'Eve' Could Boost Search For New Drugs

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Feb 04, 2015 @ 02:08 PM

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Eve, an artificially-intelligent 'robot scientist' could make drug discovery faster and much cheaper, say researchers writing in the Royal Society journal Interface. The team has demonstrated the success of the approach as Eve discovered that a compound shown to have anti-cancer properties might also be used in the fight against malaria.

Robot scientists are a natural extension of the trend of increased involvement of automation in science. They can automatically develop and test hypotheses to explain observations, run experiments using laboratory robotics, interpret the results to amend their hypotheses, and then repeat the cycle, automating high-throughput hypothesis-led research. Robot scientists are also well suited to recording scientific knowledge: as the experiments are conceived and executed automatically by computer, it is possible to completely capture and digitally curate all aspects of the scientific process.

In 2009, Adam, a robot scientist developed by researchers at the Universities of Aberystwyth and Cambridge, became the first machine to independently discover new scientific knowledge. The same team has now developed Eve, based at the University of Manchester, whose purpose is to speed up the drug discovery process and make it more economical. In the study published today, they describe how the robot can help identify promising new drug candidates for malaria and neglected tropical diseases such as African sleeping sickness and Chagas' disease.

"Neglected tropical diseases are a scourge of humanity, infecting hundreds of millions of people, and killing millions of people every year," says Professor Steve Oliver from the Cambridge Systems Biology Centre and the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge. "We know what causes these diseases and that we can, in theory, attack the parasites that cause them using small molecule drugs. But the cost and speed of drug discovery and the economic return make them unattractive to the pharmaceutical industry.

"Eve exploits its artificial intelligence to learn from early successes in her screens and select compounds that have a high probability of being active against the chosen drug target. A smart screening system, based on genetically engineered yeast, is used. This allows Eve to exclude compounds that are toxic to cells and select those that block the action of the parasite protein while leaving any equivalent human protein unscathed. This reduces the costs, uncertainty, and time involved in drug screening, and has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people worldwide."

Eve is designed to automate early-stage drug design. First, she systematically tests each member from a large set of compounds in the standard brute-force way of conventional mass screening. The compounds are screened against assays (tests) designed to be automatically engineered, and can be generated much faster and more cheaply than the bespoke assays that are currently standard. This enables more types of assay to be applied, more efficient use of screening facilities to be made, and thereby increases the probability of a discovery within a given budget.

Eve's robotic system is capable of screening over 10,000 compounds per day. However, while simple to automate, mass screening is still relatively slow and wasteful of resources as every compound in the library is tested. It is also unintelligent, as it makes no use of what is learnt during screening.

To improve this process, Eve selects at random a subset of the library to find compounds that pass the first assay; any 'hits' are re-tested multiple times to reduce the probability of false positives. Taking this set of confirmed hits, Eve uses statistics and machine learning to predict new structures that might score better against the assays. Although she currently does not have the ability to synthesise such compounds, future versions of the robot could potentially incorporate this feature.

Professor Ross King, from the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology at the University of Manchester, says: "Every industry now benefits from automation and science is no exception. Bringing in machine learning to make this process intelligent -- rather than just a 'brute force' approach -- could greatly speed up scientific progress and potentially reap huge rewards."

To test the viability of the approach, the researchers developed assays targeting key molecules from parasites responsible for diseases such as malaria, Chagas' disease and schistosomiasis and tested against these a library of approximately 1,500 clinically approved compounds. Through this, Eve showed that a compound that has previously been investigated as an anti-cancer drug inhibits a key molecule known as DHFR in the malaria parasite. Drugs that inhibit this molecule are currently routinely used to protect against malaria, and are given to over a million children; however, the emergence of strains of parasites resistant to existing drugs means that the search for new drugs is becoming increasingly more urgent.

"Despite extensive efforts, no one has been able to find a new antimalarial that targets DHFR and is able to pass clinical trials," adds Professor King. "Eve's discovery could be even more significant than just demonstrating a new approach to drug discovery."

The research was supported by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council and the European Commission.

Source: www.sciencedaily.com

Topics: health, healthcare, cancer, patient, medicine, treatment, research, science, medical, malaria, infections, A.I, artificial intelligence, robot, scientist

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