Nurse Assistant Robots Offer a Win-Win for the Health Care System
In the near future, nurse assistant robots may be required to help take care of the elderly. Japan is a microcosm of trends that are going to impact most countries during the next 25 years. In Japan more than a third of the population will be senior citizens by 2025, up from just 12% in 1990.  In 2010, Japan needed two million professionals to care for the elderly, but fell 700,000 short. If demographic trends continue, the shortage will double to 1.4 million by 2025.
Instead of replacing nurses, Japan is creating robot nurse assistants to help with perfunctory tasks, enabling nurses to give their patients more quality time. Currently, the only robot meeting safety standards in Japan is the Cyberdyne (8C4 Frankfurt) Exoskeleton. Each costs only $1,780, thanks to the Japanese government offering subsidies on half to two-thirds of the development costs.
Compared to the $25,000 annual salary on average for a nurse in Japan (not to mention benefits and training costs), and assuming that each robot costs an additional $5,000 per year for maintenance, the cost-benefit analysis is compelling.
If robot assistants, like the Cyberdyne Exoskeleton, equate to half of a nurse, then 2.8 million robots will be required to meet the shortage, creating a $5 billion market for personal health care robots at today’s prices, in Japan alone. In 2013, $1.5 billion medical robots were sold globally. Though not used for surgery, personal care robots in the hospital setting would substantially increase this market. By filling nurse shortages with nurse assistant robots, human nurses can be more productive, adding quality to the patient experience while lowering costs at the same time, a win-win for the healthcare system.