Telepresence Robots Improve Social Connectedness for Homebound Pediatric Patients
Veronica Ahumada Newhart, Ph.D.; Mark Warschauer, Ph.D.; Masha R. Jones, M.A.; & Jacquelynne Eccles, Ph.D.
University of California Irvine, Institute for Clinical Translational Science
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Servicies. (2018). Telemedicine. Retrieved from
National Health Interview Survey. (2016). National Health Interview Survey. Retrieved from
Newhart, V.A., Warschauer, M., & Sender, L. (2016). Virtual inclusion via telepresence robots in the classroom: An
exploratory case study. International Journal of Learning Technologies, 23(4).
Newhart, V. A. & Olson, J. S. (2017). My student is a robot: How schools manage telepresence experiences for students.
Proceedings of the 34th Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing System, CHI’17.
Sexson, S. B., & Madan-Swain, A. (1993). School reentry for the child with chronic illness. Journal of Learning Disabilities,
26(2), 115–125, 137. https://doi.org/10.1177/002221949302600204
•Millions of children and adolescents in the US now live with chronic
illnesses such as cancer, immuno-deficiency disorders, and others
(Sexson & Madan-Swain, 1993).
•This has led to agrowing population of homebound pediatric
patients who are unable to physically attend school, due to
symptoms or treatments of their illness, but who are still cognitively
able to learn.
•In our study, we explored the use of telepresence robots by
homebound pediatric patients to attend their local schools. In order
to explore if this practice may have a positive effect on perceived
well-being, we sought to answer the questions:
1. Why are students using these robots?
2. Do they feel happier using the robots?
• Remaining connected to peers and school community was the
primary motivation for students using this technology.
• Almost all participants reported feeling” happy” or “good” when using
Our study found that 91%of children reported using the robot to
establish or augment social connectedness to friends and school
communities as their primary motivation for using this technology; 95%
reported feeling” happy” or “good” when using the robot.
We studied 19 cases of children with chronic illness who were currently using
or had previously used telepresence robots for virtual inclusion
•11 students directly interviewed
• 8 students unable to participate for medical reasons
• A parent or educator was interviewed in their place.
• Interviews with16 parents/guardians
• Interviews and observations of 20 teachers and 16 administrators
• Focus groups with 44 classmates
Total sample size: 107
Methods and Materials
Homebound pediatric patients are using robots to attend school to
remain socially connected with peers and report feeling “happy”or
“good” to be able to attend school via robot.
Understanding this motivation for robot use allows us to better
understand their experiences as homebound pediatric patients and
explore effective interventions that may contribute to improved health
and development outcomes.
• Use of tele- technologies in the US by health care teams is now so
prevalent and of such quality that the Centers for Medicare and
Medicaid Services (CMS) has released reimbursement rates for
some medical services that are delivered via these technologies
•Prior research (Newhart, Warschauer, & Sender, 2016; Newhart &
Olson, 2017)has shown that the use of these robots in schools is a
•We explore why students were using the robots and if this practice
had any effect on the perceived well-being of participants.
•Through detailed evaluation of both US Census data and NHIS data,
we estimate the size of the US child population who are significantly
homebound at a conservative figure of 2,521,000 out of 53,640,000
school-aged children in the US.
• A key difference between these two populations (i.e., physicians and
students) is the motivation for using this technology. Physicians use
the technology to perform a professional service for patients who
lack access to medical care. But why do students use the robots?
The project described was generously supported by aResearch Award from Children’s Hospital of Orange
County;Hyundai Cancer Institute;the National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for
Advancing Translational Sciences;National Institutes of Health, through Grant UL1TR000153;and the
National Science Foundation, through DGE award 1321846.The content is solely the responsibility of the
authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH or NSF.
*0 = Kindergarten
Spinal Muscular Atrophy
Spinal muscular atrophy
Spinal muscular atrophy
Grade in School
Participants by School Grade
Number of Participants
Participants by Medical Condition