Mar 23 2021 Posted: 08:00 GMT
  • CARE CONNECT project aims to build on the successful 'ICU FamilyLink' platform in the absence of healthcare face-to-face support during the pandemic
  • Children in Paediatrics have already nicknamed the social robot "SuperMario!"
  • Platform aims to provide support to critical care settings, end-of-life situations, and vulnerable patients that rely on family for support

Researchers at CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway, supported by global technology company, Cisco's Country Digital Acceleration programme, are launching the CARE CONNECT project that will see social robot 'MARIO', used alongside a video-conferencing platform to improve patient-family communications in Paediatrics.

During the first wave of Covid-19, a bespoke video-conferencing platform called 'ICU FamilyLink' was successfully implemented at University Hospital Galway to connect patients in critical care to their families. The CARE CONNECT project aims to build on this successful pilot and extend beyond the Intensive Care Unit to other health care settings impacted by Covid-19 while also looking to the future use of telemedicine in Ireland post-pandemic. Existing technology, including teleconferencing platforms, social robots, and digital tools, have been rapidly adopted since Covid-19.

Due to Covid-19, visiting restrictions were introduced in healthcare settings worldwide. These pandemic-related restrictions create a problem as regular face-to-face communication is severely impacted. This problem will likely last for months, even years, due to the unpredictable nature of Covid-19. While restrictions may fluctuate, physical visiting will probably be limited in comparison to pre-pandemic times. Therefore, the need to create effective alternative modes of communication across multiple healthcare settings is immediate, urgent, and, unfortunately, a long-term need.

Professor Derek O'Keeffe, CÚRAM Investigator and project lead at NUI Galway explains: "The Covid-19 pandemic has restricted patient's families from visiting them in hospital and healthcare settings and therefore isolating them from their loved ones. Communication is a vital part of providing medical care and addressing patients' biopsychosocial needs and their families. This is particularly important in critical care settings, end-of-life situations, and vulnerable patients who rely on family support. It is widely accepted in clinical care that effective communication is key to reducing the psychological burden for patients and their families and patients.

"This CARE CONNECT project also builds on our NUI Galway experience in healthcare robotics using the MARIO platform, which was an EU funded project led by my collaborator Professor Dympna Casey. Our first study will be using social robot MARIO with our video-conferencing platform to improve patient-family communications in Paediatrics, where the children have already nicknamed him "SuperMario"! We will examine the efficacy of using our system to remotely educate parents and family members about the management of newly diagnosed acute medical conditions, such as Type 1 Diabetes."

Dr Aoife Murray, clinician-researcher and a NUI Galway BioInnovate Ireland alumna, who was part of the ICU FamilyLink core team, says: "The key to the successful implementation of telemedicine and digital solutions is tailoring the solution to meet patient's and healthcare provider's needs. The Medtech and Technology ecosystem in Galway and longstanding relationships with University Hospital Galway create the perfect environment to develop and test technology to ensure it is effective and appropriate for a healthcare setting."

Shane Heraty, Cisco Country Manager, Ireland and Scotland, said: "Helping people remain connected throughout this unprecedented time, and in these challenging circumstances, is something that we are incredibly proud of. This project and our partnership with CÚRAM brings the perfect blend of expertise together to enable us to have a direct and significant impact on patient wellbeing.

"We are committed to building a digital and inclusive society, and having successfully implemented the ICU FamilyLink project at the start of the pandemic, we welcome the opportunity to build on it to bring the platform to a broader patient group."

For more information on CÚRAM visit or Follow on Twitter @CURAMdevices.



For Press contact Gwen O'Sullivan, Press and Information Executive, NUI Galway at or 087 6601592.

Photo AMM-210217-1688.jpg: Social robot 'MARIO' pictured with the CARE CONNECT project team from l-r: Dr Aoife Murray, CÚRAM at NUI Galway, Professor Derek O'Keeffe, CÚRAM at NUI Galway, Mr Frank Kirrane, University Hospital Galway, and Mr Hemendra Worlikar and  Mr Vijay Vadhiraj, CÚRAM at NUI Galway. Photo: Aengus McMahon

Photo CARE CONNECT.jpg: Social robot 'MARIO' pictured with the CARE CONNECT project team from l-r: Dr Aoife Murray, CÚRAM at NUI Galway, Professor Derek O'Keeffe, CÚRAM at NUI Galway, Mr Frank Kirrane, University Hospital Galway, and Mr Hemendra Worlikar and  Mr Vijay Vadhiraj, CURAM at NUI Galway. Photo: Aengus McMahon


Notes to Editor


CÚRAM's strategic mission is to establish a world-leading Irish Medical Device Research and Development Centre in the development of diagnostic devices, biomedical implants, cell-device and drug-device combination products to address unmet clinical needs. CÚRAM is also engaging patients and their families in the use of medical devices and technologies that can impact their quality of life. By partnering with local Small and Medium Enterprises and multinational medical device and pharmaceutical companies to increase employment in Ireland.

The recent announcement of over €46M in funding for CÚRAM demonstrates the Government's strong commitment to reinvesting in the MedTech industry in Ireland, supporting the continuation of strong academic, industry and clinical collaborations that are central to CÚRAM's work.

About The HIVE Lab

The Health Innovation Via Engineering (HIVE) Lab at the Lambe Institute for Translational Research NUI Galway was established in 2019 (@HIVE_Lab). It aims to deliver novel health solutions through interdisciplinary collaboration. It is led by Professor Derek O'Keeffe (@Physicianeer), a dual-trained Physician/Engineer whose research work encompasses digital health and clinical care domains. It recently launched the world's first delivery of insulin by drone and several technological innovations during the first wave of COVID19.

About Cisco

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the worldwide technology leader that has been making the Internet work since 1984. Our people, products, and partners help society securely connect and seize tomorrow's digital opportunity today. Since 2015, Cisco's Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) Program has been developing trusted relationships worldwide. Now active in 34 countries, CDA projects align with a nation's priorities and bring digital solutions to unique societal challenges. By mixing network and technology expertise with partnerships based on trust and close collaboration, CDA helps countries stimulate economic growth and create an inclusive digital future that leaves no one behind.

For more information about Cisco's Country Digital Acceleration programme, visit:



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