The role of medical robots in the UAE’s healthcare sector was a key theme at last week’s Joint UAE Symposium On Social Robotics at United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), when professors and industry experts discussed and debated a robot’s role in medicine and patient care.
During his keynote presentation, Dr. Jawad Hashim, associate professor at the Department of Family Medicine at UAEU, highlighted the advantages and challenges of introducing robots into the patient care and treatment process.
The associate professor, who is currently developing an eHealth platform at UAEU, said rather than replace the caregiver entirely, robots could have a big impact on a number of key areas including stroke rehabilitation, strength development and autism research.
“Children with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] performed better with robots, showed social behavior towards robots and reduced repetitive and stereotyped behaviors,” said Dr. Hashim, whose previous research explores eHealth applications to improve care of chronic illnesses.“Children with ASD are more engaged in the task and they seem to enjoy the task when interacting with the robot when compared to an adult therapist. The children also showed a significant decrease in social anxiety. This is a great example of how robots can help, [rather than] replace adult supervision.”
However, Dr Hashim said a framework must be established if social robotics is to become a key component in the healthcare ecosystem. “The framework must include the ability to measure patient-oriented outcomes, determine the level of robotic interactions as well as the appearance of the robot, ensure safety of the patient and others involved, and provide a high degree of privacy and confidentiality.”
Amna Healthcare also took to the stage at last week’s symposium and walked the audience through a series of technologies it is currently using in its Al Ain and Abu Dhabi hospitals, including the Rex exoskeleton.
“We are the only [company] in the entire MENA region to have it – it is part of the rehabilitation for our patients at Amana Healthcare Abu Dhabi,” explained speaker Lulu Hamdan, marketing and communications manager at Amna Healthcare. “It is a steady exoskeleton that gives steadiness to the waist region. It mimics walking because it shifts the weight from side to side. It really helps our patients’ blood circulation, their heart, their digestive system and it helps them see people at eye level. It has multiple benefits. It is something that we are really happy to have here in the UAE.”
Two other technologies Amna Healthcare is currently utilizing include Vgo, described as Skype on wheels, and EyeGaze, an eye tracking communication tool.
Looking at social robotics more broadly, and roboticists, developers, and social scientists from the UAE and across the globe stirred much debate among the audience throughout last week’s symposium, with keynote speakers highlighting the investment opportunities, future developments and market predications that are set to shape the local and international robotics space.