Telepresence Robot Project

The Telepresence Robot Project


Social isolation is a significant issue in aged care settings. Long-term care (LTC) and hospitals are associated with adverse outcomes such as reduced well-being and loneliness in older adults. Loneliness has been shown to be linked to depression, cognitive decline, and mortality. With the rates of social isolation having increased among the older adult population during the COVID-19 pandemic, our mitigation efforts are focusing on the use of robotics to help reduce loneliness, social isolation, and improve quality of life. The use of mobile telepresence robots helps to enable individuals in different locations to interact with each other from a distance, near or far.

To help evaluate the feasibility and psychosocial impacts of using the telepresence robot in LTC, this three-year project is designed to contain multiple components: a scoping review to investigate the facilitators and barriers of implementation of the telepresence robot in an LTC setting; a survey to determine attitudes of long-term care workers and staff towards usage of the robots; implementation of the robots in LTC; and finally, follow-up interviews and focus groups of residents, staff, families, and leadership.

Read below for more details on our research.

Scoping Review


We conducted an investigation of literary articles regarding the implementation of telepresence robots within aged care settings. Using the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research, we mapped the facilitators and barriers of usage that were reported in the literature.

Through the discussion and analysis of articles with our patient and family partners, and team members, we were able to conclude key facilitators and barriers. With this information, we are able to apply these observations to our Phase 2 of the project, while also noting insights in areas for future research.

Keep an eye out for our paper to learn more about implementation of telepresence robots!

Survey


To better understand telepresence robot utilization in a clinical setting, we designed a survey examining attitudes of staff towards acceptance, usability, prospected impacts, safety, and privacy. English and Cantonese versions of the survey were rolled out to staff and healthcare professionals in select long-term care homes across the Lower Mainland during summer 2021.

The results of the survey will direct the development of practical strategies and recommendations for effective implementation of the telepresence robots in LTC homes.

Implementation


After collecting, analyzing, and adapting to the concerns and barriers outlined in the previous phase, we will be piloting the telepresence robots with LTC residents, enabling them to connect with their family members and loved ones. After a trial period of 24 weeks, data will be gathered from interviews, focus groups, as well as through ongoing observation. Participants will be asked to provide feedback to help us better understand their experiences and perspectives in regards to their time using the telepresence robot.

The feedback collected will help to better prepare for the implementation of telepresence robots with many more residents and their families. Residents, families, frontline staff, and local champions will work together with the research team to provide input throughout the entire process.

Our research results will offer practical guidelines about safe implementation and ethical use of the robot in LTC homes. Based on our study findings, we will develop an evidence-based toolkit with field-tested strategies and policies to enable LTC homes to scale-up implementation.

Our Robotic Research Team!


The research team has been working closely with our Public Advisory Committee (PAC). The PAC consists of: VCH decision-makers, Alzheimer Society representatives, patient and family partners in VCH’s Community Engagement Advisory Network (CEAN), LTC home decision-makers, frontline staff champions (nurses and care workers), a clinical ethicist, and a knowledge mobilization specialist. The PAC provides inputs and influence decision-making for the whole research project. They are actively involved in joint planning and taking action to address challenges.

Team Members: Lillian Hung (Project Lead), Jim Mann (Project Co-lead), Annette Berndt, Mario Gregorio, Neil Horne, Lynn Jackson, Lily Wong, Mineko Wada, Joey Wong, Erika Young, Chelsea Smith, Evangeline Tsevis, Charlie Lake. See our ‘About Us’ page to learn more about our lab members.