New Stanford hospital in California to deploy fleet of robots for mechanical tasks

6 November 2019 (Last Updated November 6th, 2019 14:25)

Stanford Healthcare’s soon-to-be-opened hospital in California will see the deployment of a fleet of fully programmed robotic systems to carry out some of the repetitive and mechanical tasks.

New Stanford hospital in California to deploy fleet of robots for mechanical tasks
Tug robots will serve as autonomous couriers, hauling heavy loads of supplies between the central loading dock at 300 Pasteur Drive and the new hospital at 500 Pasteur Drive — a half-mile round-trip.Credit:Kevin Meynell Photography

Stanford Healthcare’s soon-to-be-opened hospital in California will see the deployment of a fleet of the fully programmed robotic systems to carry out some of the repetitive and mechanical tasks.

The new Stanford hospital, which will open on 17 November, will have 5,500 employees.

The robots will deliver medical supplies, linens and packages, monitor the inventory system of the hospital and count out pills for nurses to administer.

The hospital will deploy 23 delivery robots, which will travel on pre-programmed routes and three pharmacy robots to store and package medication.

The deployment of the machines for the repetitive and mechanical tasks is expected to reduce medication errors and free up staff so that they can focus on more important tasks.

Stanford Health Care vice president and chief of applications Gary Fritz said: “The real value of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians comes when they use their clinical knowledge to care for patients, not to count pills. Similarly, in the supply chain, routine activities like pushing a cart 30 minutes in each direction isn’t really job enriching, but what is enriching is if those people can talk to patients or spend time figuring out how to get better supplies.”

The Tug autonomous robot, which would be 4ft high, will offer autonomous courier services to the hospital. The Tugs have the capacity to pull more than half a tonne of supplies at about two miles per hour.

Stanford hospital supply chain project manager Shaheed Hickman said: “We’re automating the heavy movement across long distances to protect our employees.”

These programmed robots will leverage laser and GPS technologies to design a 3D map of their surrounding environment, which will help them to sense obstacles in their path to avoid potential collisions.

The robots can convert these 3D map images to a 2D map image, which will in turn help managers to track the robots in real-time.

They can differentiate between the stationary objects and dynamic movements within a  10-ft radius and can change their route accordingly.

The pharmacy robots at the hospital will stock medicines.

Two robots are the Boxpickers, which will look like a giant cabinet,  with a computer interface on the outside.

This giant cabinet will consist of a pile of drawers that can stock boxes of medications and a mechanical arm that can move up and down the aisles. Currently, the BoxPickers can store nearly $5m worth of medications.

Technicians will be able to monitor the BoxPicker’s computer to understand the type and quantity of the medications required to restock the dispensary.

On the other side of the cabinet, the arm pinpoints the box with particular medication and then moves it into a drawer.

Stanford Health Care pharmacy assistant director Douglas Del Paggio said: “Instead of me going over to a bin and pulling a drug and looking at it — and if I’m in a rush, I may accidentally pull the wrong one, or the wrong drug is in the wrong bin — in these robots, it is all bar-code scanned and checked, so it’s very accurate — like 99.9 percent.”

The third robot, Pillpick, is a suction-powered machine that counts out bulk medications and then slides them into individual, bar-coded packets.

The PillPick can package 1,000 doses per hour, while a technician would require about 10 hours to pack the same number of doses.