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Technological Risks and Ethical Implications of Using Robots in Long-Term Care

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Author: Mann, Jim
Author: Wong, Joey
Introduction The pandemic provides a unique opportunity to examine new directions in innovative technological approaches in long-term care (LTC) homes. While robotics could enhance staff capacity to provide care, there are potential technology risks and ethical concerns involved in technology use among older people residing in communal aged care homes. This qualitative descriptive study explores the technological risks and ethical issues associated with the adoption of robots in the specific context of LTC homes.Methods The research team including patient and family partners employed purposive and snowballing methods to recruit 30 LTC participants: frontline interdisciplinary staff, operational leaders, residents and family members, and ethics experts in dementia care. Semi-structured interviews were conducted. Thematic analysis was performed to identify themes that capture empirical experiences and perspectives of a diverse group of LTC stakeholders about robotic use.Results Technological risks include safety, increased workload, privacy, cost and social justice, and human connection. The findings offer practical insights based on the LTC perspective to contribute to the robot ethics literature. We propose a list of pragmatic recommendations, focusing on six principles (ETHICS): Engagement of stakeholders, Technology benefit and risk assessment, Harm mitigation, Individual autonomy, Cultural safety and justice, Support of privacy.Conclusions There is both a growing interest as well as fear in using robotics in LTC. Practice leaders need to reflect on ethical considerations and engage relevant stakeholders in making technology decisions for everyday care.
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