Robots are increasingly being used in medical care to deliver meals to patients, supplies, like PPE and bandages, and medications – functions orderlies, nurses, and pharmacists often do or have done in the past. The increasing penetration of robots into hospitals and medical care settings is part of a business strategy, but will it improve patient care?
So far, it looks as if they will. Since robots fulfill a wide variety of functions, though, case studies are one of the most useful ways of looking at what they can do and improvements they can make.
Delivery Robots Can Offset Time-Consuming Burdens…
Wired recently looked at a robot named Tug, which works in hospitals to deliver meals and supplies. Tug is a short, boxy type of robot analogous to those used in hotels to deliver room service.
The offloading of delivery services to Tug allows nurses and other healthcare professionals to spend more time with patients and other members of the healthcare team. Nurses, for example, spend 7% of their time looking for supplies. If Tug can alleviate even part of that, the time saved will allow nurses to become more effective in patient care delivery. This may have a positive impact on the individual who is being cared for, as they will have the relevant care for their needs. It will also allow the caregiver to apply all that they may have learned during their Aged care courses Melbourne or one that is similar to ensure the patient is as comfortable as possible. These robots could offer some much-needed help to enable workers to do this.
Part of the human cost of Tug, though, is taking care of its needs. While robots like Tug have highly sophisticated navigational systems, they can get stuck. Their lasers can make a three-dimensional map of the hospital’s environment, for example, and they can also do relatively sophisticated procedures, like pressing an elevator button to navigate between floors.
But a large crash cart? Well, Tug may not be able to go around it without human help.
Human help can arrive in the form of a hospital worker giving a friendly assist. Interestingly enough, though, it can also arrive as a set of instructions from an office far, far away. A Pennsylvania-based company named Aethon monitors all its robots at all times. In part, this is in case robots like Tug fall and cannot get up. But it is also in part to alleviate human user fears that the robots won’t be able to navigate safely or efficiently.
As Wired observes, robots like Tug are smaller, indoor versions of autonomous cars, navigating without internal human controls. Aethon supplies internal human controls but does it via a remote location.
Tasks fulfilled by robots free up other healthcare team members.
…While Others Fill Prescriptions
National Public Radio went onsite at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) medical center to observe how a robot fills prescriptions at the pharmacy there.
It does so with high efficiency and accuracy. Whereas handwritten prescriptions needed to be scanned and pills counted into bottles by human hand, digital prescriptions can be accessed by the robot and a robotic arm counts.
It has a 0% error rate, versus 2.8% for humans.
So far, the UCSF robot has worked for pharmacists somewhat like Tug works for nurses and orderlies. It gives them time to do more patient- and healthcare-related labors, such as consulting with other members of the healthcare team.
Pharmacy heads note that no pharmacist has been replaced by the robot, but also observe that they may reduce future hiring.
It is also thought that using robots in medical environments might also significantly reduce the risk of accidents, spills, and chemical leaks.
It is an unfortunate fact that human error can often lead to spillages, and where hazardous chemicals and medical equipment are concerned, any mistakes can be costly to put right.
You can learn more about how medical professionals currently combat spills by taking a look at some of the useful resources on the Storemasta website.
For example, currently, emergency spill kits are used to quickly, safely, and efficiently address chemical spills and much more.
Ultimately, as time goes on it will therefore be interesting to see whether medical robots are incorporated into spill response plans.
So, in short robots in healthcare settings aren’t just technology news, they’re here to stay. They free up healthcare professionals to focus on patient care and increase accuracy.
Look for them at a hospital near you.