New Pharaon publication: On the Use of Assistive Technology during the COVID-19 Outbreak: Results and Lessons Learned from Pilot Studies

As a consequence of the COVID-19 emergency, frail citizens felt isolated because of social isolation, suspended and/or strongly reduced home assistance, and limited access to hospitals. In this sense, assistive technology could play a pivotal role in empowering frail older adults reducing their isolation, as well as in reinforcing the work of formal caregivers and professionals. In this context, the goal of this paper is to present four pilot studies—conducted from March 2020 to April 2021—to promptly react to COVID-19 by providing assistive technology solutions, aiming to (1) guarantee high-quality service to older adults in-home or in residential facility contexts, (2) promote social inclusion, and (3) reduce the virus transmission. In particular, four services, namely, telepresence service, remote monitoring service, virtual visit, and environmental disinfection, were designed, implemented, and tested in real environments involving 85 end-users to assess the user experience and/or preliminary assess the technical feasibility. The results underlined that all the proposed services were generally accepted by older adults and professionals. Additionally, the results remarked that the use of telepresence robots in private homes and residential facilities increased enjoyment reducing anxiety, whereas the monitoring service supported the clinicians in monitoring the discharged COVID-19 patients. It is also worth mentioning that two new services/products were developed to disinfect the environment and to allow virtual visits within the framework of a hospital information system. The virtual visits service offered the opportunity to expand the portfolio of hospital services. The main barriers were found in education, technology interoperability, and ethical/legal/privacy compliance. It is also worth mentioning the key role played by an appropriate design and customer needs analysis since not all assistive devices were designed for older persons.

Fiorini L, Rovini E, Russo S, Toccafondi L, D’Onofrio G, Cornacchia Loizzo FG, Bonaccorsi M, Giuliani F, Vignani G, Sancarlo D, Greco A, Cavallo F. On the Use of Assistive Technology during the COVID-19 Outbreak: Results and Lessons Learned from Pilot Studies. Sensors. 2022; 22(17):6631.