Webinar Review: Feasibility and acceptability of using affordable robots for persons with motor and or cognitive impairments in low-resource settings

Over the course of the semester, our trainees are reviewing webinars in their given fields and preparing abstracts to help colleagues outside their discipline make an informed choice about watching them. As our program bridges diverse disciplines, these abstracts are beneficial for our own group in helping one another gain key knowledge in each other’s fields. We are happy to share these here for anyone else who may find them helpful.

Feasibility and acceptability of using affordable robots for persons with motor and or cognitive impairments in low-resource settings

Michelle J. Johnson, Professor of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Georgia Tech’s 2021-2022 Neuro Seminar Series

April 18, 2022

Watch on the Georgia Tech Website >>

Ryan MillerAnalysis by Ryan Miller:

In this talk, Dr. Johnson does a really nice job of illustrating the progress/advancement of medical-rehabilitation robots, and then puts an emphasis on how these new technologies struggle with implementation in low-resource settings. In particular, she brings up complications with high cost, mechanical complexity, size, and accessibility. This perspective sets the foundation for her lab’s motivation to design a new model for such a setting.

Dr. Johnson further explores how rehabilitation robots should be designed for low-resource settings through two case studies utilizing their user-influenced approach. The first case study explores robot/technology-assisted stroke in Mexico, and the second case study explores robot-assessment of motor and cognitive impairments in Botswana. The findings from the first case study illustrate that a single robot needs to be able to function for a low-impact stroke patient as well as for a high-impact stroke patient in order to maximize both accessibility and efficacy. The findings from the second case study highlight for proper assessment cognition should be broken down into 8 different domains: visuospatial/executive, naming, memory, attention, language, abstraction, and delayed recall.  

Overall, Dr. Johnson strongly motivates the need for redesigning rehabilitation robots in order to broaden implementation across the world. While researcher’s have groundbreaking discoveries and have advanced these therapeutics, their accessibility is limited to high-resource settings. Furthermore, these motor and cognitive impairments are typically associated with neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases and do not get precedence in low-resource settings. Rather, treatment of viruses or other contagious diseases are often the sinks for research investments and implementations.

Dr. Johnson however does a nice job at illustrating this bias and argues that patients from low-resource settings are still a stakeholder in rehabilitation robots should be part of the consideration when designing these robots for implementation. All in all, the talk is both an intriguing and motivating perspective on the design of patient specific medical devices.