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COVIBOT project examines doctors' perception of robots helping out during the pandemic

Professor Subramanian Ramamoorthy and his collaborators on the COVIBOT project looked into whether healthcare professionals are likely to accept being supported by robots to overcome hazards and risks related to COVID-19 transmission control.

Need to physically distance? Not when you're a robot!

In response to the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic WHO recommended various safety strategies which were subsequently implemented by governments around the world. This addressed numerous challenges to the healthcare sector, from the vulnerability of the healthcare professionals through to the imminent requirement to reduce risk of contagion in hospitals and finally the sustainability of patient care. One common measure we have all experienced is physical distancing to contain the spread of the disease. To deal with these challenges scientists turned to robotics as a promising solution to help control and mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What do healthcare staff think of working alongside robots?

The COVIBOT project set to examine healthcare providers’ perceptions and acceptance of implementing robotics applications in hospital environments. In the course of the study (carried out in Colombia) 41 healthcare professionals (e.g., nurses, doctors, biomedical engineers, and others) were surveyed, assessing three categories: (DIS) Disinfection and cleaning robots, (ASL) Assistance, Service, and Logistics robots, and (TEL) Telemedicine and Telepresence robots.

The survey revealed that there is generally a relatively low level of knowledge about robotics applications among the target population. Certain levels of fear of being replaced by robots very much remain in the medical community. However, 82.9 % of participants indicated a positive perception concerning the development and implementation of robotics in clinical environments. Healthcare staff expect these robots to interact within hospital environments socially and communicate with users, connecting patients and doctors.

COVIBOT: Robotic Strategies for Monitoring and Disinfection of COVID-19 environments, a Royal Academy of Engineering-funded international project is co-investigated by Ramamoorthy. The project team is led by Professor Carlos A. Cifuentes from the Colombian School of Engineering Julio Garavito working with researchers and clinicians from Latin America (Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile).

The paper ‘Expectations and Perceptions of Healthcare Professionals for Robot Deployment in Hospital Environments during the COVID-19 Pandemic’ is due to be published in Frontiers in Robotics and AI - Biomedical Robotics.

The grant was funded under the Engineering X Pandemic Preparedness scheme.

Useful links

Abstract of the paper