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Workfl ow Management

Robots expand delivery options with seamless integration

A growing number of forward-thinking hospitals in search of greater effi ciencies are embracing automated delivery robots.

By Aldo Zini T Aldo Zini is president and CEO of Aethon.

here has always been a comfortable marriage between healthcare and technology. The fi rst generation of this union witnessed the impact technology had – and continues to have – on the diagnosis and treatment of patients. Thanks to technological advances of which our forefa- thers could only have dreamed, people are living longer, healthier lives; diseases that once seemed insurmount- able are now being aggressively challenged by modern medicine. The infl uence technology has had on the business side of healthcare, primarily over the past decade, comprises the second generation of this marriage. Business offi ces and IT depart- ments at hos- pitals, clinics, physicians’ of- fi ces and insur- ance carriers are applying smart technology to help make the system operate more effi cient- ly, effectively and sensibly for all. Imag- ine a hospital’s business office before comput- ers, calculators and adding ma- chines.

As 2011 unfolds, we fi nd ourselves on the precipice of the third generation of this evolution – how technology can be used to simultaneously improve both the qual- ity of care and, at the same time, make the healthcare system more effi cient and considerably more patient focused. Perhaps the most dazzling example of this can be

10 March 2011

found in the growing acceptance of electronic health records. Just a decade ago, the adoption of EHRs and other health information technology (such as computer physician order entry) was minimal in the United States. Fewer than 10 percent of American hospitals had implemented HIT while a mere 16 percent of primary care physicians used any form of EHRs. But that is all changing as provisions and incentives found in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are encourag- ing a movement toward electronic health records as a way to foster improvements in quality, safety, effi ciency and access.

Found in nearly 200 hospitals around the

country, 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.

But EHRs are just one of many dramatic examples of how technology is changing the way hospitals func- tion. Radio-frequency identifi cation (RFID) tags that track every doctor, nurse and piece of equipment in the hospital in real time, for example, can enable a faster emergency response. Smart beds that automatically transmit patients’ breathing and heart rates to their charts can alert nurses to developing problems more quickly. And according to industry analyst Datamonitor, spending on telemedicine, which now entails everything from remotely monitoring patients to analyzing medical images from afar and someday could even include long- distance surgery, will reach $6.1 billion by 2012. While examples of new technologies and innovation can be found throughout the hospital, one area that seems to have been overlooked is hospital logistics.


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