As New Hampshire hospitals join the national trend of adopting robotic delivery methods, the look of staff passing by at local hospitals may also begin to change.
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center recently announced the addition of three high-tech autonomous TUG robots to its staff this summer to deliver medications from its pharmacy to the inpatient wards of its newly opened Patient Pavilion.
The pavilion opened in April after the hospital underwent a multi-floor, 240,000-square-foot expansion to the existing building to accommodate the hospital’s growing need for additional beds. The estimated number added to the pavilion is 150.
Robert Maloney, director of inpatient pharmacy at Dartmouth-Hitchcock College, said the main reason for introducing robots to the facility was to reassure hospital staff, especially pharmacy technicians who used to go to work every hour to deliver medicines. He said it was for the sake of it.
These robots are used in many facilities to deliver meals, linens, and other types of medical supplies, as well as to deliver medicines. According to the TUG manufacturer Aethon’s website, this will allow staff to focus more on patient care.
“We have the opportunity to introduce these types of robots and replace their functions with robots so that our technicians can perform higher-level and more complex tasks,” Maloney said. said Mr.
The expansion of the Patient Pavilion expands the area covered by pharmacy technicians when dispensing medications.
“The geography of patient pavilions has been a challenge for pharmacies. Project Manager Jill Cote said.
Maloney noted that the addition of the TUG robotic delivery system comes at a time of nationwide hiring and labor shortages, especially in the pharmacy sector.
“We combined that with the fact that delivery to the floor is a very simple kind of low-level task,” he said. “So we take the load off so that our technicians can do compounding and more advanced work that we really want them to do more of.”
The three robots arrived in Lebanon in June and have completed the testing and mapping phase in the past few weeks.
Two of the robots will follow a “prescribed route” every hour, Maloney said. A third robot will be used for urgent drug needs that are programmed into the robot by pharmacy technicians.
According to Aethon’s website, the robot moves at a speed of 30 inches per second and has 10 hours of battery life.
The robots are programmed to never bump into people, so they move quickly around the patient pavilion. Maloney said the elevator can be “pinged” to let it know which floor it’s being delivered to.
When a robot with an embedded drawer arrives at a set delivery location, it alerts nursing staff, after which the nurse can log into the robot using a unique access code. The robot will then open the relevant drawer and allow the nurse to retrieve the appropriate medication.
Dartmouth Hitchcock is the first medical center in New Hampshire specifically to deploy TUG robots, but not the first to use a robotic delivery method between the on-site pharmacy and the inpatient ward.
Elliott Hospital in Manchester used a robotic delivery service 10 years ago, but has since switched to a pneumatic tubing system, said Mollie Mortimer, head of pharmacy services at Elliott Hospital.
Pneumatic tube systems date back to the 1850s and use compressed air to transport objects and documents through a network of tubes.
Today, the system plays an important role in many hospitals, connecting different wards and pharmacy departments, shortening delivery times and giving medical staff peace of mind.
“It takes a lot of time, especially in the medical field, because people come and go many times a day, and it’s not always easy to get people,” Mortimer said. “That is, any method that is attempted to reduce the number of physical human-powered trips is usually justified.”
Mortimer said many patients and visitors were curious about the robots roaming the corridors of Elliott Hospital at the time it was using robotic delivery methods.
“I think people who have been to hospitals have always found robotic birth to be very novel,” she says. “I decorated it from time to time for holidays and seasons to bring a smile to people’s faces.”
However, using robots for delivery purposes comes with a set of challenges.
Mortimer said one of the challenges Elliott faced while implementing the robotic transport system was tracking the robots. She believes that as the software evolves, it may be able to address some of the concerns that existed before.
Mortimer said both robotic delivery and pneumatic tube systems require people on both sides, whether to refill the robot with drugs or to retrieve the deliveries.
“Therefore, we need to ensure that medicines transported via robotic delivery systems and personnel transport systems are safe and secure, and that they are done in a timely manner. I need to,” she said.
Maloney said the TUG robot went live at Dartmouth-Hitchcock two weeks ago and is doing well.
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