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Research project

Implementing collaborative robots (‘cobots’) in health & social care: using engagement to forge regional partnerships for technological impact

Project overview

Hampshire County Council (HCC) are currently using ‘collaborative’ robots, or cobots, across their long-term care and short-term care settings, both institutional and community based, for adults requiring personal care. Each setting places it’s own demands on care staff, especially in moving and handling. The HAL-Lumbar Type, developed by Cyberdyne Ltd, is a cobot device worn on the body to assist human movement, allowing the user to control the delivery of assistance. Cobots are mainly used for neurological rehabilitation (Cruciger et al. 2016; Tamburella et al. 2022) and lifting tasks (Tan et al. 2019; von Glinski et al. 2019); to date, no evidence exists on the implementation of cobots in healthcare practice.

In 2018, HCC piloted cobots for staff in home care settings. The subsequent emergence of COVID-19 placed additional stress on the regional health and social care workforce, partly due to more clients requiring specialist support, staff shortages and reduced budgets. In response, the Council launched the Pathfinder Project, an informal evaluation of cobots deployment, aiming to assess the financial benefits, impact on workers, and promoting culture change in implementing new technologies. HCC now plan large-scale deployment of cobots across Hampshire. To support this, HCC require evidence-based guidance to support the decision-making of their staff when using cobots across settings. Current PhD work is supporting this by reviewing the evidence for exoskeletons for workers in healthcare settings. This IfLS project will complement the PhD, in developing content for an implementation guideline to support workers using cobots in care and community settings.

Aims and objectives
This project will aim to:
i. Engage care workers, local authority managers, and service users across Hampshire to understand barriers to implementing, incorporating and embedding novel technologies, such as cobots in their practice.
ii. Begin developing content for a cobots implementation guideline for HCC care providers.

Objective 1:
• We will hold two, in-person engagement events, involving care workers, managers and clients across Hampshire.
• These 3-hour HCC-endorsed events will be delivered in Southampton, and involve i) presentation* of the Council’s Pathfinder evaluation, followed by ii) a series of focus to discuss the findings and explore barriers to using cobots in Hampshire care pathways. A maximum of three, parallel focus groups will be run (each 60 minutes); separate groups for care workers, managers, and clients, respectively.
• Qualitative analysis of focus groups will initially involve thematic analysis, and subsequently, CFIR to review results from an implementation perspective.

Objective 2:
• To hold a 2-hour, in-person, collaborators roundtable forum, involving care workers, managers and clients (n=10-16), to begin co-producing a prototype implementation plan for HCC care providers based on the engagement event findings.

The proposed project will align with a current PhD study, reviewing the evidence on the factors affecting the implementation of cobots in manual handling settings, and five undergraduate students who will produce a research protocol (BSc year 2; Feb-May 2023) and conduct a follow-on study focusing on service user perspectives (BSc year 3; Oct-Mar 2024), supervised by the Principal Investigator and PhD researcher.


Lead researcher

Dr James Gavin


Research interests

  • Musculoskeletal conditions
  • Physical activity
  • Self-management
Connect with James
Other researchers

Mrs Shilpy Bhat

Research interests

  • Technology-Driven Innovations in Health and Social Care
  • Stakeholder Experiences in Technological Adoption
  • Regional Partnerships for Technological Impact
Connect with Shilpy

Dr Michelle Myall

Principal Research Fellow

Research interests

  • Domestic violence and abuse
  • Life-limiting illness and end of life decision-making
  • Death, dying and bereavement
Connect with Michelle

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

Research outputs