For the most part, robots aren’t on the radar screen when providers look for remote healthcare options. However, at least one manufacturer with a long tradition of manufacturing practical consumer technology hopes to change this.
If you’re like me, you associate Black + Decker with its lines of power tools, lawn care and outdoor equipment and household appliances, and certainly, it’s still in those businesses. Recently, however, it’s launched a new type of tool aimed at addressing consumer health needs.
The company has just launched Pria, an automated medication management and home healthcare assistant device, the first Stanley Healthcare product designed for consumer users. (Stanley Healthcare already sells a range of products designed for senior living facilities and hospitals.)
According to Black + Decker, Pria as a HIPAA-compliant, voice-enabled tabletop robot which gives caregivers insight into their loved one’s medication adherence and general wellbeing. Caregivers can review this data either by using the robot or via a related mobile app.
Using Pria, caregivers can schedule up medication doses, provide reminder alerts when it’s time to take the meds and dispense the meds at the scheduled time. In addition to medication cues, caregivers can schedule reminders on other topics, such as drinking water or video calling family members.
In addition, the robot can make it easier for patients to connect with their caregiver. Using the device, they can call family or caregivers with a voice command and engage those they call in a two-way video chat.
It should be noted that Pria isn’t going to be accessible to everyone, as it’s more than a little pricey at $749.99 plus a $9.99 monthly subscription.
That being said, as healthcare organizations focus on maintaining patients in their own home (rather than needing inpatient care) it’s likely that they’ll need to do a better job of tracking medication adherence among home-based patients. Buying a device like the Pria and placing it in the home of aging patients might well be cost-effective given the costly negative consequences of poor med adherence.
Also, it’s worth pointing out that some research supports the idea that home-based med management robots will be accepted and used by seniors. A handful of small studies (such as the one outlined by this 2017 paper) suggest that elderly patients take their medicines in a more-consistent manner when prompted by a medication robot similar to the Pria.
At present, despite its promise, we are probably far away from broad adoption of home health robot technology. If we do head in that direction, though, it seems to me that we should make sure medication management is part of the mix, whether the Pria itself stays in production.