Elderly residents in Gore are lining up to trial healthcare
robots, when the town becomes the first place in the country
to deploy them.
Gore Health Ltd, which runs Gore Hospital and a number of
healthcare services, bought four healthcare robots, or
healthbots, to help reduce costs, save staff time and improve
patients' long-term health.
Gore Health is working closely with UniServices, the
commercialisation company of the University of Auckland,
which launched its healthbots project four years ago. The
robots use hardware created in South Korea and software
developed by UniServices and other New Zealand companies.
Gore Health chief executive Karl Metzler said the four
healthbots were bought by Gore Health, assisted with funding
from the University of Auckland and the Gore community.
The three smaller of the healthbots for the trial cost $4000
each, and the larger one, Charlie, cost $16,000.
Two smaller healthbots would also be loaned to Gore Health by
''It's not about replacing doctors or nurses, it's about
complementing and supporting their roles,'' Mr Metzler said.
''Charlie'', the large healthbot, will be based in the GP
practice, performing tasks such as taking vital signs, while
three smaller robots will be placed in patients' homes with
the aim of extending independent living.
The three smaller healthbots will assist with aged care in
the Gore community, serving as faithful companions to elderly
patients, especially those needing long-term care for chronic
Technicians at Focus Technology Group are now fine-tuning the
healthbots' software before they are put in homes late next
Mr Metzler said the healthbots helped combat loneliness by
giving residents interaction.
Mr Metzler said the hard part would be deciding where to
deploy the machines among those patients who volunteered.
Some residents at Selwyn Retirement Village in Auckland,
where robots were trialled, had becoming ''quite attached''
to healthbots, Mr Metzler said.
Using equipment attached to the robots, residents will be
guided through a step-by-step process to check blood pressure
and heart rate, with test data automatically transferred to
clinicians and caregivers. Residents will be monitored for
The healthbots speak and use voice recognition to talk to
patients, reminding them to take medication. They move around
and provide companionship.
In an emergency, such as incorrect medication data or
abnormal vital sign measurements, healthbots are capable of
sending a text message indicating a problem to any nominated
The use of robots could enable the chronically ill or elderly
to stay in their own homes longer, Mr Metzler said. He
believed this was the first time such robots had taken on
permanent roles in a clinical setting.
Gore Health Ltd operates Gore Hospital with a 16-bed
inpatient ward, 24-hour emergency department, a four-bed
maternity ward and services, GP practice, dental practice and
allied and community health services.