Attitudes and reactions to a healthcare robot

Elizabeth Broadbent, I Han Kuo, Yong In Lee, Joel Rabindran, Ngaire Kerse, Rebecca Stafford, Bruce A MacDonald
Telemedicine Journal and E-health 2010, 16 (5): 608-13

OBJECTIVE: The use of robots in healthcare is a new concept. The public's perception and acceptance is not well understood. The objective was to investigate the perceptions and emotions toward the utilization of healthcare robots among individuals over 40 years of age, investigate factors contributing to acceptance, and evaluate differences in blood pressure checks taken by a robot and a medical student.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Fifty-seven (n = 57) adults aged over 40 years and recruited from local general practitioner or gerontology group lists participated in two cross-sectional studies. The first was an open-ended questionnaire assessing perceptions of robots. In the second study, participants had their blood pressure taken by a medical student and by a robot. Patient comfort with each encounter, perceived accuracy of each measurement, and the quality of the patient interaction were studied in each case. Readings were compared by independent t-tests and regression analyses were conducted to predict quality ratings.

RESULTS: Participants' perceptions about robots were influenced by their prior exposure to robots in literature or entertainment media. Participants saw many benefits and applications for healthcare robots, including simple medical procedures and physical assistance, but had some concerns about reliability, safety, and the loss of personal care. Blood pressure readings did not differ between the medical student and robot, but participants felt more comfortable with the medical student and saw the robot as less accurate. Although age and sex were not significant predictors, individuals who held more positive initial attitudes and emotions toward robots rated the robot interaction more favorably.

CONCLUSIONS: Many people see robots as having benefits and applications in healthcare but some have concerns. Individual attitudes and emotions regarding robots in general are likely to influence future acceptance of their introduction into healthcare processes.

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