Patient Perspectives of Robotic Interaction in Healthcare: A Case Analysis of the Kinarm Robot in Brain Function Analysis
The Kinarm assessment, which is the focus of my study, is a robotic standardized assessment tool that measures brain function and memory in elderly patients. The Kinarm assessment remakes bodies in the process of turning bodies into research data. The assessment disassembles bodies in the process of rendering bodily components and functions useless and impossible, and then, reassembles bodies by enabling and constructing new components and different functions. Some elderly patients in my study experienced feelings of fear and discomfort during the assessment. Those who did not, acknowledged the legitimacy of such negative feelings, although they emphasized that they did not experience these feelings themselves. As such, research assistants on the Kinarm assessment project were well trained to perform emotional labour to improve the patients comfort level and overall experience. However, this was not enough. Patients needed to talk about and make sense of their experience in the assessment. Patients appropriated my role as principal investigator/interviewer into primary emotion worker so that they could discuss their feelings and experience in the assessment, thereby, making sense of their bodies, their role, and their feelings in the assessment. The goal of my study is to reveal patients’ feelings, beliefs and experiences when technology, specifically the Kinarm robot, is part of their healthcare experience. My findings indicate that elderly patients may experience feelings of fear, discomfort, and nervousness when faced with unfamiliar technologies in a healthcare setting. Patients think differently about their bodies in the Kinarm assessment and their comfort with the robot determines to a large extent how they perform the assessment. I recommend that elderly patients be debriefed following medical procedures that involve technologies that are unfamiliar to them.
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