The healthcare sector has been using robots for years. The care robot has become a mature tool in healthcare, which is also being taken seriously by government and insurers. This is illustrated by the rapidly growing popularity of care robot Maatje at home and abroad, a platform being developed by the Dutch company Smartrobot Solutions.
Two recent milestones in the international expansion of the care robot platform that Dutch based Smartrobot Solutions has developed is the purchase of several dozen Maatje robots by Italy and Finland, in their own language. “The basis for a care robot is the software platform we developed in-house,” explains owner Richard Kuijpers. “We mainly use that in Maatje, but it is easy to transfer to other robots. And it is also easy to convert into another language, so that Maatje is now also used in Italy and Finland.”
The acceptance of such robots in healthcare has grown beyond the pilot phase. Right now a lot of research is available that shows the value of robots for healthcare clients. Kuijpers: “We see many different applications for our robots, but to give an example: a care institution uses Maatje for someone who has dementia. He doesn’t know what to do when the doorbell rings, and can’t remember how to open the door. Thanks to a simple connection with sensors, Maatje tells him that there is a visitor and says what to do to open the door.”
Concerning the technical aspects, a lot of attention has been paid to security, and the robot is officially certified. Ease of use has also increased. “That is essential for the use of robots in healthcare,” says Kuijpers. “People in that sector don’t have much time, least of all for mastering complicated technology. That is why we have developed templates for the care robot that are aimed at specific applications, such as anxiety and dementia. These can be placed on multiple robots. Of course they can be modified, but it is easier to remove things than to program something new.”
He continues: “The robots have real added value. Not only are the costs of care falling thank to those robots, but living conditions are also improving. The robot can indicate whether, for example, the temperature is OK, or whether the oxygen level in the air is good. But the robot can also indicate, and if necessary send signals to the healthcare provider, if the client is not doing well. Or the robot tells the client that the plants need water again.”
Government and insurers
The fact that such solutions are possible is partly because the market is also becoming more mature financially. “Sensors, used for example to measure movement or temperature and to communicate that data with Maatje, are not that expensive anymore. At the same time, it helps that the Dutch government accepts this robot, which is in itself not so expensive anymore, as a medical tax deduction. And because of the proven usefulness, there are now even insurers who are considering reimbursing the purchase of care robots.”