‘We’ve been pushing the edge of technology, showing what can be done.’
PITTSBURGH – Rory Cooper Ph.D. is the founder and senior researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Human Engineering Research Labs (HERL), and has been working for years to use advanced engineering in clinical research and medical rehabilitation to improve the mobility and function of people with disabilities.
We spoke with Cooper recently about technology in the home health care space.
HHTN: What are some of the new home health care technologies you’ve been working on?
Cooper: We’re working on versions of a robotic-assisted bed/wheelchair combination to help in transferring patients from their wheelchair to a bed. The wheelchair docks right to the bed, eliminating the huge effort that it can take to transfer a patient. The standard version is already on the market.
HHTN: How long is the process for a technology from inception to market?
Cooper: We’ve got a great team and a good track record of bringing projects to market. It usually takes about five years.
HHTN: How does technology impact home health care?
Cooper: I think technology provides the opportunity for people to have greater autonomy and self-direction at home, and it allows them to stay in their homes longer with as much control over their own lives as possible. Allowing people to manage their condition and stay at home is much less expensive than institutionalizing them.
HHTN: Do you face any resistance to the work that you do at HERL?
Cooper: All the time—it’s especially tough when we go to write grants. Developing a new technology isn’t always as interesting as finding a cure for something, but you have to have people like us that are pushing the limits or we would still be in the dark ages waiting for that cure. Figuring out how to manage a condition is allowing people to live longer, and we’ve been pushing the edge of technology, showing what can be done.