Lacking health workers, Germany equips elderly care robots

But Guenter Steinebach, a 78-year-old retired German doctor, said: “For me, this robot is a dream come true.”

Garmi can not only diagnose patients but also provide care and treatment. Or at least that’s the plan.

Garmi is the result of a new field called geriatrics, which uses advanced technologies such as robotics, IT and 3D technology for the elderly, gerontology and nursing.

About a dozen scientists built Garmin at the Munich Institute of Robotics and Machine Intelligence with the help of medical professionals like Steinbach.

The institute, which is part of the Technical University of Munich, is based in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a ski resort with a large population of elderly people in Germany, with a department specializing in geriatrics.

Europe’s most populous country itself has one of the fastest aging societies in the world.

With the number of people in need of care growing rapidly and an estimated 670,000 care positions in Germany remaining unfilled by 2050, researchers are racing to conceive of robots that can take over some jobs from nurses, caregivers and doctors today.

“Today we have ATMs where we get money. We can imagine that one day, based on the same model, people will be able to get their medical tests in a technology center,” said 43-year-old chief scientist Abdeljalil Naseri. The laboratory.

Doctors can then review the results of the robot’s diagnosis remotely, which can be especially useful for people living in remote communities.

Alternatively, the machine can provide more personalized services at home or in a care home — delivering food, opening a bottle of water, calling for help in the event of a fall or organizing a video call with family and friends.

‘We have to get there.’

In Garmisch’s lab, Steinbach sits on a table equipped with three screens and a joystick as he prepares to test the robot’s progress.

At the other end of the room, the researcher, designated as the test model, takes his position in front of Garmi, who creates a stethoscope on his chest – an action directed by Steinbach from a remote joystick.

Medical information is immediately displayed on the doctor’s screen.

“Imagine if I was like this in my old practice,” Steinbach said as she moved the joystick.

Apart from the retired doctor, other medical professionals also regularly visit the lab to give their thoughts and opinions on the robot.

“He’s like a three-year-old child. We have to teach him everything,” Naseri said.

When Garmi might be ready on a commercial scale is anyone’s guess.

But Naseri is sure that “we have to get there, it is clear that the statistics are urgent.”

From 2030, we should be able to integrate this kind of technology in our society.

A question of trust

And indeed, if one day it is deployed, residents of the project’s partner, St. Vincent’s Retirement Home in Garmisch, will see Garmy rolling down the aisle.

Just thinking about it made the 74-year-old resident of the house, Mrs. Rohrer, smile.

“There are things the robot has to do, like serve drinks or bring food,” said the house’s director, Eva Pioskowiak, while doing her nails.

Pioskowicz, who struggles daily with labor shortages, said she didn’t expect the robot to replace health workers.

“But it might allow our staff to spend a little more time with residents,” she said.

For Naseri’s team, one of the main challenges is not technological, medical or financial.

Instead, it remains to be seen whether more patients will accept the robot.

“They have to trust the robot,” he said. They should be able to use it just like we use a smartphone today.

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