October 20, 2020
ARNA, the Adaptive Robotic Nursing Assistant (ARNA) technology developed in Dr. Popa’s LARRI lab, was recently selected for commercialization evaluation during a prestigious national cohort of NSF-I-CORPS teams. Their 1 year project is entitled I-Corps: Adaptive Robotic Nursing Assistants for Physical Healthcare Delivery. Under this grant, the team, led by Dr. Sumit Kumar Das, Research Scientist at LARRI, explored the commercial landscape for ARNA. During an intense 7 week cohort training the team interviewed more than 100 healthcare professionals, such as nurses, patients, nurse and hospital administrators, with the goal of understanding the needs of their work environment and the potential of the ARNA robot to bring value to several future customer segments.
ARNA is designed to lighten the load for healthcare workers in hospitals, long-term care facilities and other nursing scenarios. The Bureau of Labor statistics indicate that there are millions of registered nurses in the United States, which makes them the largest workforce providing healthcare. Our technology has the potential to augment the nursing workforce and help offset personnel shortages in hospitals, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and others. Adaptive robotic nursing assistants will reduce nurses exposure to infectious agents, reduce musculoskeletal injuries, and increase job satisfaction by freeing up time spent on item fetching, repetitive measurement of vital signs, and lifting. A robot that can communicate with the electronic health records to document tasks completed would have even greater impact by saving nursing time devoted to documentation. With the predicted shortage in nursing workforce, nurse workloads are expected to increase, and robot nursing assistants have the potential to handle some of the nursing tasks. Patients and hospitals also stand to gain in terms of quality of care, prevention of falls, and faster recovery through automation.
With the information gathered in the I-Corps project, the team at LARRI will continue to enhance ARNA with technology that is user friendly, intuitive and most of all adaptive to each user’s personal needs. The embodiment of this technology consists of a mobile manipulator with an omni-directional base, a 6-DOF robotic arm, and sensors to assist with nursing scenarios such as patient Sitter and patient Walker. The sensors include both non-contact proximity and also contact tactile skins to allow the robot to operate safely in cluttered healthcare environments and interact physically with nurses and patients. The technology also incorporates human-machine interfaces (HMIs) that allow users to interact with the robot in an intuitive manner that can be tailored to individual preferences. ARNA’s neuroadaptive learning control technology can adapt to each user’s behavior during physical human-robot interaction, ensuring both high quality interaction, programmable adaptive HMI behaviors, and robust performance under operational uncertainties. Using our technology, ARNA can navigate the environment, fetch objects, and automate mundane nursing tasks while keeping healthcare workers in the decision loop.