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Moving vital equipment, supplies, medication and more from one place to another is largely being done in the same manner since the invention of the elevator more than 100 years ago: by people pushing carts. This may get the job done, but is not altogether effective and contributes to hospital inef- fi ciencies and even medical errors when critical deliver- ies are not made on time. A growing number of


Aldo Zini is president and CEO of Aethon, a provider of mobile, self-directed robots to hospitals.


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forward-thinking hospitals in search of greater effi cien- cies are embracing automated delivery robots. Now found in nearly 200 hospitals around the country, these robots are being viewed as a sensible logistics solution by CIOs, CEOs and CFOs because they enrich patient care, enhance productivity and provide cost-saving, quality- oriented solutions to everyday challenges. They’re also conquering workforce shortages, breaking down delivery silos, making effi cient use of shrinking resources, and bringing a new generation of smart technology into the fold.


A different kind of robot For more than a decade, robots have been making their mark in the operating room at medical centers across the nation. Originally approved for general ab- dominal procedures such as gallbladder removal, robotic surgery – where the surgeon manipulates computer controls rather than a scalpel – is now used for heart and prostate cancer surgery, gynecologic procedures and bariatric surgery, among others. With the help of a tiny camera inserted through an incision port, a surgeon can see the surgical fi eld onscreen as he or she sits at a console in the operating room, from which he or she guides the robot’s instruments, also inserted through ports. Someday, the doctor guiding the robot could be sitting at a console literally around the world from the patient.


As of late, hospitals are adding a decidedly different kind of robot to their corridors. Automated delivery ro- bots safely and courteously travel the hallways of many of America’s most progressive institutions. In truth, it should come as no surprise that robots are beginning to take their rightful place in U.S. hospitals. After all, robots have been around for decades, providing usefulness in various forms of manufacturing and assembly line pro- duction. But now, thanks to advanced sensors and safety technology, robots are moving beyond factories and into different types of work where they are able to provide measurable value and signifi cant cost savings – and that includes having a momentous impact in healthcare. For those hospitals that have taken this step, there


www.healthmgttech.com


Robots support the laboratory by delivering samples, blood and supplies in a secure and confi dent manner.


R b t t th l b t b d li i l bl d


can be little doubt about the value the robots provide as they touch numerous departments to deliver, track and retrieve goods and supplies. They operate 24/7, don’t get sick or injured, don’t take breaks or vacations, don’t require benefi ts and don’t complain. Robots provide value hospital wide. Consider:


• Robots support the laboratory by delivering samples, blood and supplies in a secure and confi dent man- ner. At the University of California-San Francisco Hospital, for example, the laboratory staff loads its robots with blood products, selects a preprogrammed destination on a computer touch screen and presses the robot’s “go” button. The robot is then on its way to a medical wing of the hospital, transporting blood for transfusions. When it reaches its destination, point personnel enter an electronic code to unlock the cart cabinet and access the contents. Staffers sign to confi rm the blood products were received; the robot then returns the signed documents to the laboratory.


• Robots support the pharmacy operation by ensuring timely and reliable delivery of medication to nurses’ stations throughout the hospital, either scheduled or


HEALTH MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY March 2011 11


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