What potential do robotic systems hold when it comes to relieving highly qualified nursing staff in hospitals of non-specialist service activities? This is currently being researched by the Professorship of Nursing Science at the KU and the LMU university hospital in Munich. The cooperative project titled "REsPonSe - Robotersystem zur Entlastung des Pflegedienstes von Servicetätigkeiten” (robot system to relieve nursing staff of service activities) is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The use of a nursing robot is being tested in the nuclear medicine therapy ward of the Munich hospital.
Diverse studies have shown that nursing staff only has 15 per cent of their working time left for direct care for patients. Much of their time is lost on unnecessary walking distances (21 percent) and other non-nursing activities (25 percent). Prof. Dr. Inge Eberl from the KU, who is a certified nurse herself, told us: "Most walking distances are caused by spontaneous and often undifferentiated patient requests." It is precisely the nursing staff who play a key role in the care of the patients and the coordination of highly complex measures.
With conventional systems, where patients ring a bell to call a nurse, the nursing staff only find out about patients’ concerns when they ask them after they arrive at the beds. For this reason, software solutions have been developed that allow patients to specify their wishes and needs already from the bed via a smartphone app – in addition to the emergency button that is still available.
The ongoing project in the nuclear medicine therapy ward K0 at the LMU hospital even goes one step further by connecting such a system with a service robot: The smartphone app “Cliniserve” facilitates communication between patients and ward staff. Patients can send service requests directly to robot “Jeeves” from their beds using the app. The same model is already in use at hotels to serve drinks to guests or bring them the toothpaste they forgot to their room after they placed an order by phone. The goods are stored in several drawers integrated into the robot.
The use of app and robot is particularly suitable for the ward K0 at LMU hospital Munich (Campus Großhadern): Here, patients receive radioactive therapeutics. After administering those meds, personal contact must be limited to the absolute minimum for up to 48 hours. Thanks to the communication app, patients can send their wishes and needs directly to the ward staff or the service robot without a specialist nurse having to take their requests at the bedside. Simple service requests, such as having a bottle of water brought to you, can be taken over independently by the service robot “Jeeves”. It takes the bottle right to the patient’s door and notifies them via the app. “Combining new technologies and robotics is a very valuable support for our ward in times of the current nursing crisis.”, says Judith Kammer, head of the ward K0. “It allows us to focus more on actual nursing activities.”
Since the start of the trial period three months ago, the robot carried out more than 300 tasks. In addition, the app can also be used by qualified nursing staff to set reminders for specific tasks or forward them to other nursing or service staff. There is also a chat function in which patients can specify their requests further and nurses can answer directly. The robot roams hospital corridors for supplying patients with water, towels, toothbrushes or cold pads. “These are all requests that would otherwise have been taken care of by nursing or service staff. Furthermore, using these modern technologies is supposed to reduce radioactive exposure”, explains project team member Christoph Ohneberg from the KU.
As regards acceptance and implications for nursing care, interim results of the ongoing trial phase have shown that patients appreciate the reduced burden for nursing staff through the use of both technologies. However, a robot cannot replace personal contact. Nursing staff questioned also said that the core of professional nursing care still was interpersonal contact with the patients – even if certain service tasks can be taken over by robotic systems. In general, participants in the survey said that robotic service tasks must be adapted to the respective nursing setting and the specific requirements of the field. After the end of the trial phase, researchers at the LMU hospital will take stock of the actual amount by which walking distances of nursing staff could be reduced though the project.
Information on the project REsPonSe is a collaborative research project of LMU hospital Munich, the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt and the companies Cliniserve GmbH and Robotise GmbH. The aim of the project is to investigate how the communications app Cliniserve and the service robot Jeeves can relief the burden on tight staff resources. The three-year project was launched in February 2020 and is subdivided in three project phases. The first phase consisted of a pre-study evaluating possible application scenarios and technical prerequisites for being able to use the app and robot. In the second phase of the project, the technical equipment was tested on healthy persons and nursing staff in the hospital and adjustments were made to the system and process. The current third phase integrates the systems into regular hospital operations with real patients and the project findings are evaluated scientifically. The REsPonSe research project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in the context of its “robotics in nursing care” program with a total funding amount of 2.16 million euros.
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