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EVA: Robots could do a fifth of nurses' work

A Finnish think tank says that robotic technology and automation could perform up to 20 percent of the tasks currently undertaken by nurses and practical nurses. The EVA report is based on technologies already in existence or in development, not possible future advances.

Nurses could soon have more robotic colleagues in Finland. Image: Yle Antti Kolppo

Finnish hospitals and care homes could soon be staffed partly by robots and automated machines, according to a new report by the EVA think tank.

"Robotics work for the transportation of patients and equipment, recording vital functions and measuring out medication," said Mari Kangasniemi, one of the report's authors. "For example distribution of medicines by robot has been proven to reduce mistakes and increase safety."

Robots take on monotonous tasks

The report suggests that nursing staff currently spend less than three days of their five-day working week on direct patient care. With currently available robotic solutions, that could rise to nearly four days a week.

Robots would help nurses avoid some of their repetitive, monotonous tasks, allowing them to re-allocate working time to patient care that requires expertise.

EVA reckons that in that way care outcomes, workplace health and efficiency could be improved—and that it's unlikely robotics in healthcare would lead to staff reductions.

Robots can't replace humans

An ageing population means that the demand for care and healthcare will increase in the coming decades, with EVA estimating that the need for healthcare personnel will increase by some 10 percent by 2026, while the demand for care staff will rise by nearly twenty percent.

EVA does sound a note of caution, however—patients shouldn't be given too much responsibility for their own care, and the human touch will remain necessary for tasks like the insertion of catheters. Nurses will also still be needed to evaluate the data provided by robots, as interpretation and judgement will remain part of healthcare practices.