Eindhoven – The Dutch organization Bright Cape has, within a European EIT Digital Innovation consortium, developed a robotic healthcare colleague to reduce work pressure in the health sector and maintain quality of care. SARA, is the colleague’s name. SARA stands for Social & Autonomous Robotic health Assistant. And SARA already works in two Dutch healthcare institutions. The results so far are encouraging that SARA will continue as a startup.
The ageing population presents the European society with challenges. The number of elderly people and the number of elderly with (chronic) diseases is increasing, while at the same time healthcare institutions and hospitals deal with personnel shortages and high work pressure. “For this problem it is needed to not constantly work harder, but to work smarter”, says Emmy Rintjema, activity leader SARA from Bright Cape.
SARA a digital innovation
SARA is developed this year as an EIT Digital innovation activity within a consortium of EIT Digital partners: Bright Cape, Forum Virium Helsinki, GIM Robotics from Finland, and Curamatik and the Technische Universität Berlin from Germany. In 2020, SARA will continue as startup SARA, a spin-off of Bright Cape which also leads the consortium. “We believe that robots can offer a large contribution to healthcare. They can work together with health professionals and thereby reduce the work pressure”, says Emmy Rintjema.
That this works, is shown by a pilot at Zorggroep Elde Maasduinen and at a nursing home in Finland which are involved in the development of SARA as test locations. “SARA is still in a prototype stage that we are fine-tuning together with residential care centers”, says Bright Cape’s project leader.
Reduced work pressure
The results of the pilot are extremely positive, Rintjema notes. “Professionals experience that SARA indeed reduces their work pressure.” Healthcare professionals put SARA to work with residents so that they have their hands free for the care of other residents.
According to Rintjema, the most important lesson is that the system is an ideal supplement for elderly care and especially people with dementia. The SARA-robots can interact with the patients, such as reading stories, playing videos, playing word games, or reciting music. They can also do simple fitness-promoting exercises with the clients. “Mental and physical stimulation has a positive effect on delaying the disease process of dementia.”
Care group Elde Maasduinen is satisfied with SARA. They will use her again next year, says Rintjema. This satisfaction has also led to another SARA robot working at TanteLouise in Bergen op Zoom. According to Rintjema, the positive experiences of these healthcare institutions lead to even more interest from other healthcare institutions.
Robots in healthcare
The concept of robots in the healthcare sector is not new. However, most of those robots are unable to function independently, while SARA can largely act autonomously. Thanks to the SARA Home system, healthcare professionals can, for example, upload the input of a life care plan from the client file to SARA. In this way, SARA knows that one patient prefers to hear stories and another patient needs musical stimulation. Healthcare professionals can add activities. SARA can be configured differently per healthcare institution. In the healthcare institution in Kaatsheuvel, SARA is programmed with stories about De Efteling, so that the residents can retrieve memories. SARA can also ask a client how he or she is doing and give feedback to health care professionals. The professional can act immediately if SARA receives a signal that someone is experiencing more pain than usual.
SARA focuses primarily on the Dutch healthcare market. Since Bright Cape will enter the British market itself next year, SARA will get an English-speaking sister. The SARA family will then be able to expand to Germany and Finland, the countries where the consortium partners are established.
The focus of SARA is now primarily on care for the elderly. In the future, it will be able to expand to hospitals. For the time being, the development focuses on perfecting SARA, says the project leader. “We want to make the interaction smoother and we want to investigate whether and how we can make SARA move independently.”
About Bright Cape
Bright Cape is the partner in the field of data and innovation. Regardless of how much experience an organization already has with data analytics, Bright Capers know exactly how they can translate the data into added value for the organization. Bright Cape converts the results into concrete solutions for the organization, with the aim that it can subsequently get to work with the created solution itself. Bright Cape has experts in Analytics & Applied Data Science, Data Driven Experience Design, Process Mining, Robotic Process Automation and Innovation Products.
About EIT Digital
EIT Digital is an European innovation and education organization. Goal is to improve economic growth and quality of life in Europe by means of digital technological innovation and education. This happens through integration of education, research, and entrepreneurship and a Pan-European cooperation with 180 European companies, SMEs, startups, universities and research institutes. Hereby EIT manages to bring innovations to market and to educate new leaders of tomorrow. EIT Digital is a ‘Knowledge and Innovation Community’ of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.