Robot Nurses To Cut Health Care Costs

Who hasn't fantasized about in-house robots cleaning the floors, preparing dinner, or washing our backs in a nice warm bubble bath? Although robots are replacing humans in various industries, Colin Angle, a roboticist and CEO of iRobot (opens in new tab), has a vision of robots cutting down the costs of health care. Earlier today at IFA in Berlin, Angle made his vision known to CNET during the convention, saying that robotic "nurses" in a person's home could reduce the $2.2 trillion spent on health care every year.

His vision includes robots caring for elderly people who insist on living at home, or sick patients that don't require surgery. What his vision doesn't include is robots that walk and talk like C-3PO or Ash (from Alien), but rather machine-like devices similar to the Roomba (opens in new tab) and Scooba (opens in new tab) household robots that he helped design.

"Instead of patients with chronic illnesses constantly going to a hospital for even minor treatments and checkups, a telepresence device could act as a proxy for the doctor to check in on them," reports CNET based on an example provided by Angle. "The robot could examine, diagnose, and make sure a prescription is administered on the right schedule. The patient, in other words, wouldn't have to set foot in a hospital unless he or she needs care that is only available there."

Of course, currently, it's extremely difficult to finance a house let alone a "nurse" robot. Without insurance flipping most of the bill, elderly consumers won't be able to afford such devices, especially those living on social security, disability or retirement. But Angle seems to think there's a market, saying that consumers spent between $2,000 and $3,000 each on health-related equipment, and the number will jump over 7 million within the next three years.

Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then, he’s loved all things PC-related and cool gadgets ranging from the New Nintendo 3DS to Android tablets. He is currently a contributor at Digital Trends, writing about everything from computers to how-to content on Windows and Macs to reviews of the latest laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more. 

  • bustapr
    stupid. I'm studying for nurse and I wouln't like to be "replaced" by a robot. It's just humiliating!
  • AMDnoob
    yep i agree ^^ it'll cut costs... and jobs.
  • grieve
    Somethings are better performed by Humans. I suspect an elderly person who requires care would also enjoy the Human interaction of a Nurse apposed to a machine.
  • h0llow
    I also totally agree that it'll cut costs and jobs.. BUT also in the same sense, where I live, nurses tend to be lazy. Very unfortunate. technically I still would rather have a real living being. LOL besides, anything that has to do with technology will either fail or freeze at some point in time. It'd suck if the robot froze at a critical time.
  • ssalim
    I'd rather have lazy nurse than a robot nurse that becomes self-aware and picks up a weapon.
  • Ridik876
    This is beyond stupid. Robotic "nurse"? First of all, nurses don't diagnose. Second of all, what will this thing actually do? Blood tests? Urine tests? Not only is this not practical (would you let a robot stick you in the arm?), but it wouldn't be more cost effective to have tens of thousands of urine/serum analyzing stations in people's homes. And what do they mean by "examine"? Certainly there wouldn't be any imaging. This thing wouldn't be changing dressings. I really would like to know what this thing could actually do. Monitor BP in hypertensive patients? Okay there's one idea that has a relative amount of logistics...but do you need an effing robot to do that? No.

  • kittle
    assuming they dont set a pricetag on these things that only Bill Gates can afford -- its doable.

    The time savings alone can be worth paying $3-5k for something like this.

    sure it will cut some jobs. but it will also CREATE jobs as service techs for these things..
  • megamanx00
    It's a great idea until the robot realizes you would make a great battery.
  • kingssman
    Looks good for simple tasks like answering the door and reaching for the TV remote, but would it call 911 if you fell or perform CPR if you stop breathing?
  • spectrewind
    My opinion. It will not happen:

    1 - Real nurses have personality that cannot be duplicated by AI. Somehow, I don't see "Good morning, Dave" anywhere close to reality.

    2 - HUGE legal liability here. If the patient that this nurse is tending becomes injured in any way while being treated by this hardware... The company/hospital that installs one of these things will need to absolve itself of any responsibility instantly after deploying one of these.

    3 - Somehow I do not see JHACO approving of the use of something like this. -At least in the U.S.