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    Helping Robo-Hand: Medical Robots to Aid Elderly Healthcare in Finland

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    With the age expectancy rising across the Western world, the stress on healthcare resources is gradually increasing. In Finland, hopes to utilize robots in hospitals have been triggered by a recent report.

    Robotic technology could perform up to 20 percent of all medical tasks currently performed by nurses and other hospital personnel, a report by the Finnish EVA think-tank showed. The report was based solely on technologies already in existence or development, not possible future improvements.

    According to EVA, Finnish nurses may soon be working side by side with their robotic colleagues, as Finnish hospitals, hospices and care homes may soon be partly staffed by automatons.

    "Robots may serve for the transportation of patients and equipment, recording vital functions and measuring out medication," Mari Kangasniemi, one of the authors behind EVA's report told Finnish newspaper Uusi Suomi. "For instance, distribution of medicines by a robot has been proven to reduce mistakes and increase safety."

    ​According to the reports, robots will gladly take on repetitive and monotonous tasks, allowing them to shift more working time to patient care that requires expertise. Robotic solutions are thus expected to partly relieve the nurses from direct patient care.

    EVA warned specifically that despite the fact that medical robots will be here to stay, it is unlikely that robots will totally replace personnel or even lead to staff reductions.

    Finland's population is ageing, and the demand for healthcare personnel is expected to increase by 10 percent by 2026, whereas the demand for care staff will rise by nearly 20 percent, which is exactly the number that is expected to be replaced by robots.

    Additionally, the need for a human touch remains unaltered despite the larger part robots will play. Nurses will still be needed to evaluate data provided by robots, whereas interpretation and judgment will still be carried out by trained doctors.

    Population aging has emerged as one of the essential problems facing the developed nations, and consequently the problem posed by the elderly population is gaining increasing importance when considering the future and development of the society.

    In Finland, only the age-group of 65-years old and older is growing whereas the others are either stagnant or shrinking. People aged 65 and higher currently constitute 20 percent of Finland's population of 5.5 million. The population of working age will also decrease, and it has been estimated to decrease most in the 2010s at a pace of almost 30,000 per year. When the baby boomers retire, there will not be enough labor force to replace them, a report by the Turku-based Institute of Migration showed.

    Finland's ageing population suffers from many ailments. In 2009, nine out of ten Finnish women of retirement age reported constant health problems, with back pain, joint pain and insomnia being the most common symptoms. Ninety four percent of Finnish women and 86 percent of Finnish men regularly use medication.

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    Robotics, healthcare, Scandinavia, Finland
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