SARA robot moving to the next level

A bright future awaits SARA, a robotic assistant that improves the quality of life of elderly residents in nursing homes and reduces staff workload.

Launched in 2019 as part of an EIT Digital innovation activity, SARA Robotics immediately raised significant interest from care institutions, quickly signing its first customers. But the robot’s deployment really took off during the pandemic, when the startup allowed Dutch care institutions to have a one-month free trial to test its functionalities. As many as 125 nursing homes took advantage of the offer.

Now, SARA Robotics has raised €350K, €200K investment from the Brabant Development Agency, and a €150K innovation loan from Rabobank, to further develop the robot in collaboration with healthcare institutions.

Thanks to a system called SARA Home, accessible from a computer or tablet, nurses can elaborate a personalized profile and health plan for every resident, meant to support the caregiver.

In its current form, the robot can play games, support music therapy and perform repetitive tasks, such as reminding staff of certain events and checking on the resident’s wellbeing.

The startup wants to add more features and convince healthcare insurers that the robot belongs in the care package. Examples could include connecting the robot to sensors in the care home to monitor the wellbeing of residents during night shifts or enabling the robot to hold an object and move around autonomously.

“We now know that 90 percent of the customers with whom we develop SARA successfully use it to support residents,” says Maartje Claassen of Sara-Robotics. “40 percent of the institutions involved want to include SARA in the care plan of one or more residents. But to really relieve healthcare staff as we envision, we need to develop new functionalities for different healthcare questions and take the robot to a higher level.”

SARA is not aimed at replacing staff. Rather, by taking some work off the hands of professional caregivers, it enables more time to what is really important, warm, personalized care. In ageing European societies, the number of elderly people as a percentage of the overall population is steadily increasing, while fewer people choose to become healthcare professionals. Therefore, a robotic assistant, fulfills a true market and societal need.

As SARA’s platform is hardware-agnostic, its business case is highly scalable, yet another reason to look optimistically ahead.

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