Fit for Medical Robotics aims to address a major clinical, socioeconomical and humanitarian issue which stems from the demand of rehabilitation and personal care of people with reduced or absent motor, sensory, or cognitive functions due to injuries or congenital reasons. Current rehabilitation and assistive models offered by the national healthcare system lack in personalization and adequate continuum of care through-out all the phases of the rehabilitation process. Hence, excluding few exceptions nationwide, rehabilitation outcomes are typically unsatisfactory for the patients albeit expensive to the system.

Biorobotics i.e., a melting pot of technologies spanning from bioengineering to robotics has been proposed as an appealing option to improve the clinical outcome of physical rehabilitation and personal care treatments in a sustainable manner. This because of the unique combination of features offered by robots: they host sensors and computational reasoning to understand and decipher environmental or patients’ intentions, and they have physical bodies that do actions in response to such reasoning.

In the last decade we have witnessed massive technological and scientific advances: the rise of wearable and implantable devices, of robotics into factories, AI and big data, phygital services, new materials and biomaterials, functional surgical techniques, all complemented by a significant reduction of the costs to afford them. This suggests that robotic rehabilitation/treatment represent a terrific opportunity to offer a better and more efficient health care, improve the quality of life of millions of individuals, potentially generating new jobs, contributing, in parallel, to knowledge – in the neuro-robotic fields – that may have important spill overs into many other sectors of technology, services and industry, such as more durable batteries, faster and more efficient microcomputers and algorithms, AI techniques, novel manufacturing techniques, and so on.

For all the above considerations, this is the right time.

We believe that healthcare and personal care robots can address the clinical, socioeconomical and humanitarian demand they are called for. Yet we believe that there is space for a substantial change in the legal and economic policies for which such robots/systems enter and are adopted by the Italian healthcare system(s), within a continuum of care paradigm. To this end it is imperative to set an interdisciplinary initiative including physicians (raising clinical questions), bioengineers (finding technical solutions) and social scientists (ensuring the solutions can be adopted.

Fit for Medical Robotics aims to cover technological, economical, legal and policy gaps currently present in the Italian healthcare system, that have prevented nationwide clinical adoption of first-class, patient specific therapies/treatments, robotic and digital treatments. Fit for Medical Robotics Objectives:

O1: Identifying the needs of the patients and rehabilitation practitioners/therapists, associated to specific selected pathologies, unmet with current robotic technologies.

O2: Tailoring the most advanced and ready-to-use (i.e., available today) families of rehabilitation, assistive, and occupational robots to the aforementioned needs and patients, and to neuroscientific-based protocols.

O3: Clinically assessing such available robots and thus provide conclusive clinical evidence of their efficacy when tailored to different target groups of patients/individuals.

O4: Performing a detailed cost-benefits analysis of such clinical assessments to assess their sustainability.

O5: Optimizing the clinical protocols to create specific paradigms for boosting the inclusion of healthcare and personal care robots in the medical, rehabilitation and occupational environments.

O6: Developing and promoting with policy makers and stakeholders the inclusion and democratization of sustainable robots and treatments in the national healthcare system also by developing specific economic, business and reimbursement models as well as by shaping them in a way that fit also in existing private law tools used in the welfare system.

O7: Preparing for the next generation of healthcare and personal care robots (and to robotics in general) by promoting the investigation of new hypotheses/ideas and technologies, including nanoengineered smart (bio)materials, and sustainable power sources attempting to overcome the main limits faced by current robots used as physical care givers.