The Paro. The use of medical robots nowadays has been on the rise; many doctors and surgeons opt to use robotics during medical procedures for faster and more accurate execution of procedures. However, a new kind of “medical” is now also available—the Paro.
The Paro is a robotic seal developed by Japanese engineers can respond to touch, light, voice and temperature. It can also perceive people and its environment with the help of posture sensors. This non-surgical animal robot is already commercially used in several countries and costs about $5,000 dollars (USD).
One “medical” use of Paro has been established by the previous work of Prof. Wendy Moyle and her team at the Griffith Health Institute. Their study showed that contact with Paro among elderly patients with dementia has created many positive benefits including lowered anxiety and improvements in mood.
Prof. Moyle now plans to conduct a large-scale study that will provide thorough evaluation on Paro’s benefits as therapy aid on patients suffering dementia. She revealed that she plans to engage four hundred patients from at least thirty nursing homes to participate in the study. Prof. Moyle revealed:
“The Paro has some fantastic benefits for the treatment of dementia patients, but so far we do not have a large-scale quantitative evaluation that examines the effect of the Paro on an individual’s emotional state and its cost benefit in reducing pharmacological costs. This is what we will be trying to achieve in this study, if we are successful in achieving funding.
“With an extended research team, we will be assessing emotional states in participants such as agitation, using measures including video observation and assessment of physiological responses.
“The statistical evidence that we collect will be used to examine the cost effectiveness of the Paro within care facilities versus the costs of pharmaceutical treatment for people with dementia.
“If for example, we are able to show that we can reduce psychotropic medication to a patient by 10 percent by using the Paro or alternatively show that they can stay at home for longer without admission to a care facility; then, that would be a fantastic result with direct cost benefits.”
One of the research scientists and Paro’s developer, Dr. Takanori Shibata, expressed confidence that the robot will prove its worth in the Australian market. To quote: “The Paro is gradually gaining more acceptance as a treatment for dementia around the world. In 2009, it was certified by the Federal Drug Administration in the US as a medical device and we are hopeful of similar success to come in Australia.”
With this recent study and further updates of this research by Prof. Moyle, many dementia patients and their family can benefit from Paro. Many family members of dementia patients expressed interest in the use of Paro, together with the hope of seeing their loved ones be able to smile again.