The Toyohashi University of Technology in Japan has developed a nursing robot for hospitals. But this robot won’t be taking anyone’s jobs; it’s designed to help shoulder some of the load and make medical care easier for its human co-workers, allowing them to spend more time with their patients.

As the world’s population grows older and birthrates remain relatively low, health care costs and requirements increase at a higher rate than health care staff can keep up with. Doctors and nurses are left with more work to do, and old systems of recording and tracking data have to evolve to keep up. Many hospitals around the world have switched to digital data systems, but recording and inputting data still take time. If doctors do that, they have less time to work with patients, and if the hospital contracts people to do data entry for them, they have to spend even more money on healthcare.  And those costs are generally passed on to the patients.

The new robot, called Terapio, helps mitigate some of that. Terapio is short, with a rounded top and a screen that displays information and shows people what the robot is doing via “expressions” created with digital eyes. The robot basically acts as a mobile medical cart, able to carry items and double as a sort of clipboard, recording the data the doctors get from their patients.  It can also get personal data directly from patients.

Terapio is quiet, so it doesn’t distract or disturb patients or staff, and it can be programmed to follow a specific person while avoiding obstacles. The result, if all goes according to plan, is that patients visiting Japanese hospitals in the near future will be seen by a doctor with a little robotic assistant.

Researchers at Toyohashi are adamant that in the future, humans and robots will work side-by-side, and not just in Japan. Terapio could be put to use in hospitals around the world, saving them time and money, and allowing doctors to focus more energy on their patients.