Posted by: robotnews | April 3, 2007

A Hands-Off Physical Therapy Assistance Robot for Cardiac Patients

U037841J Tan Sze Sze Vivian

Most developed countries face the problem of an aging population . This has put a strain on medical and healthcare services as this meant more medical workers are needed. The most direct implication is the shortage of nurses. The workload for existing healthcare workers are increased and methods for relieving their workload is needed. Robots that could provide assistance for repetitive yet time-consuming tasks are developed and are in high demand. They could relieve the workload of nurses and nurses could channel their efforts to greater flexibility. The robot presented in the picture below is named Clara and it provides assistance for breathing (spirometry) exercises for patients.

The target assistive for the robot ,Clara, is the spirometry exercise. Cardiac patients need to perform regular lung exercises after their surgery . This is to prevent infection and increase the speed of recovery. Patients inhale air through a spirometer, a small plastic device which measures the velocity and amount of inhaled air . Patients are supposed to inhale up to a specified volume of air, which will slowly increase as they recover. This exercise forces the lungs to expand and contract regularly to prevent pneumonia. This activity is usually facilitated by a nurse and has to be carried out ten times per hour for several days or weeks after the cardiac surgery. The process is repetitive, laborious and time-consuming for the nurses. Tutelage on how to use the spirometer and how to breath properly are needed in the first few sessions, subsequent sessions require mostly motivation and monitoring. Monitoring meant the recording of the patient’s progress and thus track recovery rate. Thus, in subsequent sessions after the patient has learnt how to use the spirometer and breath properly , the activity of providing spirometry exercise can be replaced by a robot.The robot will record the patient’s progress for the nurses to track their recovery.

Clara is a hands-off intelligent assistive robot as it has no physical contact with the patient. Instructions are given through speech and speech recognition is one of the implementations of the robot. 3 traits are endowed upon Clara, they are namely , social awareness, autonomy and the lack of tactile input or physical manipulation. Social awareness involves interaction with the patient, providing motivation for the specified breathing excercise ,which is painful for the patient. Autonomy means no human assistance is needed and lack of physical manipulation means it does not need a person to push it around or give it commands through physical contact. Clara is constructed with off-the-shelf products. It has acoustic perception and obstacle avoidance abilities for command and navigation. It has a video playback application that can display a person’s face.

Future work would involve improving accuracy of the speech recognition implementation and safety. Safety has to be improved as hospitals have highly dynamic environments and might hinder the robot’s ability to perform obstacle detection and avoidance. The robot could be made more interactive as well.

I feel that this robot is a good development and could benefit medical worker’s by relieving their workload a lot. More of these robots that cater for repetitive and time-consuming work could be development , not only in the medical field , but in engineering, construction fields or areas that involves high risk like space tracking. These assistive robots could help humans channel efforts to better use or perform difficult tasks in their place.

Reference :
Kyong Il Kang, Sanford Freedman and Maja J Matari´c, Interaction Laboratory
Computer Science Department, University of Southern California, Mark J. Cunningham and Becky Lopez,Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery,Keck School of Medicine,University of Southern California, “A Hands-Off Physical Therapy Assistance Robot for Cardiac Patients”, USC Centre for Robotics and Embedded Systems Technical Report, CRES-05-001,Mar 2005

http://robotics.usc.edu/~maja/teaching/cs584/papers/kang.pdf

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Responses

  1. Clara seems like the great option for tasks which are mechanical and repetitive. Does it in anyway keep track of the patient’s breathing or heart rate to ensure that the exercises are being carried out in the proper manner? Another point which I feel is not that important is it capability of obstacle avoidance. Wouldn’t it be easier to transport the robot to the room required. As there is conceivably lot of traffic in the hospital hallways, its autonomous movement might hinder the flow.

    My two cents worth,

    Karthik Ramaswamy
    U037067L

  2. hahah robots are great but then can it send a hug?? i doubt so!! anyway it’s a great invention esp if we are talking abt highly contagious patient where minimum contact with patient is needed (like Sars or bird flu), we dun wish to loose more doctors when they are fighting to save us!!

    U046232N Ang Rongjie

  3. In reply to Rongjie’s comments , i also feel that this robot’s usefulness can be harnessed for use in cases of contagious diseases. If it can be programmed to take over routine jobs, the risks will be very much lowered for medical workers. This is an area that is being investigated by researchers right now.

    In reply to Karthik’s comments, the answer to whether Clara keeps track of a patient’s breathing and heart rate is yes. This is the job of Clara . It monitors the patient’s progress and record the readings for the nurse . The nurse and doctors will then use these data to see how well the patient is recovering. I guess you are right about the obstacle avoidance part. I guess the idea about obstable avoidance of Clara is to make it work like a ‘nurse’ ,which is to reach patient’s on its own. If nurses have to push it around 10 times a day to one patient,it would be too much of a hassle ,and it defeats of having the robot , which is to free up work of nurses in the 1st place. Maybe another way is to have 1 robot for each patient, but that might be too expensive right now.

  4. In reply to Rongjie’s comments , i also feel that this robot’s usefulness can be harnessed for use in cases of contagious diseases. If it can be programmed to take over routine jobs, the risks will be very much lowered for medical workers. This is an area that is being investigated by researchers right now.

    In reply to Karthik’s comments, the answer to whether Clara keeps track of a patient’s breathing and heart rate is yes. This is the job of Clara . It monitors the patient’s progress and record the readings for the nurse . The nurse and doctors will then use these data to see how well the patient is recovering. I guess you are right about the obstacle avoidance part. I guess the idea about obstable avoidance of Clara is to make it work like a ‘nurse’ ,which is to reach patient’s on its own. If nurses have to push it around 10 times a day to one patient,it would be too much of a hassle ,and it defeats of having the robot , which is to free up work of nurses in the 1st place. Maybe another way is to have 1 robot for each patient, but that might be too expensive right now.

    By Tan Sze Sze Vivian U037841J (the original poster of the blog)


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