Developing new collaborative robotics technologies to facilitate mobility and rehabilitation in healthcare settings – News

The patient lift prototype presented by Denis-Alexandre Brulotte of Arjo Magog and Professor Alexandre Girard
Photo: UdeS – Michel Caron

The Université de Sherbrooke and Arjo Magog are joining forces to create smarter lifting devices to promote the mobility and rehabilitation of patients in hospitals and long-term care units. This research project, led by Alexandre Girard, professor-researcher in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is supported by the Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) thanks to a generous Alliance grant of $230,378.

The approach aims to add intelligence to existing lifting and transfer devices, in the form of advanced assistance functions. Robotic technologies will be incorporated, not to replace caregivers, but to support them through force-assist and automation of low-value tasks. This transformation is similar to that of the driver assistance systems found in a motor vehicle. Robotic technologies are not replacing the person driving (at least, for now); it helps with power steering features like cruise control, traction control and automatic emergency braking, etc.

The main long-term objectives:

  1. Save caregiver time by automating repetitive tasks that have little value in terms of quality of care.
  2. Minimize the risk of injury to caregivers by providing intelligent support forces.
  3. Give more autonomy to patients thanks to assistance modes that he or she can control.

Population aging and labor issues

Device of the hoist type marketed by Arjo.
Device of the hoist type marketed by Arjo.
Photo: Supplied

In a country where the population is aging, providing quality care and services to people hospitalized or housed in long-term care units is a major challenge and one of the significant aspects is mobility. Why? Because it has a considerable impact on the patient, both in terms of their health and the quality of care received. The time spent in bed is too great and the lack of material and human resources to provide them with enough opportunities to move aggravates the situation. In addition, another element that contributes to exacerbating the labor issue is the high risk of back injuries to which caregivers are exposed in their physical tasks related to mobility.

Technology transfer between researchers and industry

The partnership between Arjo Magog and the University of Sherbrooke began in 2018 thanks to a grant Engaged from NSERC. This alliance has already led to a patent-pending innovation that Arjo is now incorporating into its next-generation product: motor-assist technology to reduce injuries when using floor levers.

Alexandre Girard, professor-researcher at the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sherbrooke
Alexandre Girard, professor-researcher at the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sherbrooke
Photo: UdeS – Michel Caron

Projects with Arjo are very rewarding: it’s a golden opportunity to use robotic technologies to directly help people and tackle a major societal challenge. Moreover, with this company, the purpose of the project is not to publish knowledge, but rather to transfer technologies into products that will soon be available in hospitals.

Professor Alexandre Girard

Benefits for the region

From an economic point of view, the proposed technology will promote the development of innovative products that could lead to commercial success. The research project will help the company Arjo to develop its local research and development branch located in Magog, which will contribute to the development of the Canadian medical sector and, consequently, will create quality jobs in the region.

About the Arjo Partner

Arjo is a global provider of medical devices, services and solutions that improve the quality of life for people with reduced mobility and the elderly. Arjo’s comprehensive offering includes products and solutions for patient handling, hygiene and disinfection, therapy beds and surfaces, and more. The division based in Magog, Estrie, is responsible for developing, producing and marketing patient transfer and mobility solutions.

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