Amid historic strikes and a vacancy rate of around 10 percent in the country’s healthcare sector, Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) is looking to deploy assistive robots to help ease the staffing burden in the country’s hospitals.
According to Joe Harrison, chief executive of Milton Keynes University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, pharmacy technicians and runners at his hospital make 30,000 steps a day within the facility.
The hospital is now testing an assistant bot to delegate tasks such as drug delivery.
The Academy of Robotics, the British firm behind Helper Bot, says its self-driving technology is designed specifically for hospital use.
Using LiDAR and sonar technology, the penguin-like “Milton” is designed to deliver medications along specific routes to assist staff.
The Academy of Robotics says operational testing of the feature will begin this year. Feedback from the trial will be used to decide whether to scale it up across the NHS or introduce it to other hospitals across the country by 2023.
Time and cost savings
Academy founder and CEO William Sachiti says robots like “Milton” will help save time and costs on human staff running around hospitals.
“The biggest problem we don’t know is ‘to-take-out (TTO),’ where you’re discharged and technically, you’re just waiting for your medication. And these hospitals can be very, very large. It’s a 15-minute walk. Like yes sometimes go to get medicine, bring back, 30 patients at once,” Sachiti told Euronews Next.
“It may make sense for super-intelligent robots to safely drive deliveries while humans focus on patients.”
Short staffing in the healthcare system is a global problem and hospitals in other parts of the world are also looking to hire robotic assistants.
Across the Atlantic at Chicago’s Elmhurst Memorial Hospital in the US, two 5-foot-tall robots have been operating since June 2022.
Equipped with a digital screen on her chest and an ID badge to open doors implanted in her robotic arm, both robots are named “Moxy”.
Hospital staff say they can spend more time serving patients because of these bots.
“A lot of times, I was kind of running around the hospital, picking everything up, and you put a lot of miles in the hospital, all that walking,” said Tom Angelos, a patient care technician at Elmhurst. .
The hospital said that 6 employees are working as much as they can.
According to the statistics of the hospital, the two robots have been performing about 1,800 deliveries every month, traveling about 1,600 kilometers and making the hospital staff walk more than 200,000 steps on the way to the facility.
According to the developer, Diligent Robotics, a Texas-based company, several hospitals across the country are waiting to test “Moxy.”
“If you have a workforce shortage, one of the things you can do is think about making sure the people you have are focused on what they need to be focused on. And so it’s really about automation and our kind of solution,” the company’s CEO and co-founder Andrea Thomas said.
‘Relieving the burden of night workers’
In East Asia, Aeolus Robotics’ “Aeo” has been easing the burden of nurses and runners in hospitals in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The robot can run at about 1 m/s and can lift up to 4 kg with one of its robotic arms. With its newly launched features including an infrared camera, it can work in complete darkness.
Dan Haddick, CEO of Aeolus Robotics, believes this will allow Aeo to “take a lot of the load off the night shift staff.”
“It can go and check on residents. It can deliver overnight and it can only work in the dark overnight. So the infrared camera is a new thing that we’re launching that really expands the capability,” Hadik said at CES 2023. In Las Vegas.
Robotics companies and the hospitals that test them all agree that these robots are not meant to replace human staff.
“We’re not relying on Moxy to interact with patients,” said Diane Botts, clinical manager of surgical oncology at Elmhurst Memorial.
“It’s still our privilege and honor, so we get to spend more time with them.”
“A hammer still needs a carpenter. Even though these robots are autonomous, they are still tools to help people do their jobs. So, for us, we strongly believe that the best machines should be there when needed and not out of the way,” Sachita said. she said
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