With an aging population worldwide, the healthcare industry is now looking to the future for solutions.
There has been a global trend for medical facilities to become more automated – and this trend is rapidly gaining momentum.
In Australia and other advanced nations, robots are set to revolutionise healthcare.
Surgical robots have been used since the early 2000s, enabling surgeons to perform delicate work with greater precision, flexibility and improved reach.
And now medical robots are quickly moving into other areas of healthcare to achieve better patient healthcare outcomes, improve efficiency and lower costs.
Robots are ideal for repetitive tasks in the healthcare system. They are dependable, can work long hours, and never call in sick.
Most importantly, robotic advancements will improve the daily lives of patients by performing a broad range of tasks including delivery of medication, meals and fresh linen.
This means nursing and medical staff will have more time to spend communicating with patients, improving the level of patient care.
One company leading the way in healthcare robotics is Lamson – a specialist in materials handling solutions.
Lamson, a global company with a proud history spanning more than 100 years, is now at the cutting edge of Australian healthcare automation.
Institutions such as Royal North Shore Hospital, Bendigo Hospital, the new Perth Children’s Hospital and the latest Sunshine Coast University Hospital have embraced Lamson’s innovative robotics technology.
Lamson offers a complete range of healthcare logistics and material handling solutions.
Its latest technology was on show at the recent the Australian Healthcare Week Expo in Sydney.
This included the Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) RoboCourier, utilising the Omron LD Series mobile robot.
The RoboCourier is a clever robot that can navigate around crowded corridors and laboratory or pharmacy departments. It can operate 24/7 and take a wide range of payloads from bulk laboratory samples, specimens, pharmacy supplies, surgical equipment, medical records and other payloads in a secure enclosure or open tote bin format.
The Lamson robot only needs power from a standard wall outlet to recharge. It’s easy-to-program laser guidance system makes sure the healthcare robot safely navigates narrow hallways, tight quarters, and multiple floors.
Lab, pharmacy and other hospital staff can now spend far less time walking and waiting.
That means specimens and tests can be analysed sooner, ultimately enabling faster results and overall better patient care.
The Lamson mobile robot is designed for dynamically moving material in challenging environments – including confined passageways and workplaces with staff on the move.
It can intelligently navigate around people and unplanned obstacles and can be programmed and functional within a day.
In a world first, Lamson has introduced its latest robotics systems into the new Perth Children’s Hospital to change of healthcare as we know it.
“This hospital is leading the way using the latest technology for drug dispensing and delivery of medication, meals and linen,” said Mr Oktay Gokce, Manager of Lamson Healthcare in Australia.
“This solution is unique,” he says.
The robots are also being used for the efficient disposal of waste at the Children’s Hospital.
“Each ward sends its waste trolley with a robot down to the loading dock – a task previously done by staff,” Mr Gokce explains.
“A robotic system then transfers the waste into a compactor before the robot takes the bin
to a trolley washer.
“When the bin has been washed, it gives it back to the robot which then automatically transports it back to the original ward.
“In the complete cycle, there is no contact with humans which eliminates any contamination – it’s all fully automated.
“No other hospital in the world is using this system.”
The hospital is also using Lamson robots to transport medication, pharmacy supplies, blood samples, meals and bed linen throughout the hospital.
This technology is also being trialled at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, Bendigo Hospital, Victoria, the latest Sunshine Coast University Hospital.
And Lamson has ambitious plans to introduce similar technology into Australian aged care facilities.
“This is a very sensitive environment – as you can imagine – and there are many challenges,” Mr Gokce admits.
“Patient and staff safety is of course the biggest issue. If we are not 100 percent sure it is safe we cannot deploy the technology.
“To have robots running around these facilities you have to be very confident it is the right solution for that environment. You have to consider every scenario – and there are a million different scenarios.”
Mr Gokce says most aged care service providers are desperate to find professional, reliable staff.
“To keep the current ratio of aged care workers to retire aged 85+, Australia need to add 77,000 workers in the next 10 years. This is only to cover the existing demand and does not include the growing demand of an aging population. There is insufficient staff available in Australia to service that market – so they are looking for automated solutions.”
Mr Gokce says aged care facilities are like mini-hospitals with similar payloads, but it is preferable to use smaller mobile robots.
“For this application, we have designed the RoboCart based on the Omron LD series mobile robot, which is an ideal solution,” he says.
In another world first, Lamson is now trialling two RoboCart mobile robots at a prominent aged care facility in Brisbane.
The Lamson robot is being used to deliver meals to patients – breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as morning and afternoon tea. It is also being used to transport clothing, bed linen and medications.
“The initial feedback has been very positive,” says Mr Gokce.
The new LD series robot provides a good foundation for applications of this kind. The technology can be easily modified and configured to suit the environment.
“The robots must be integrated into the facility and interfaced with existing equipment,” he says.
“For instance, it must be able to ‘talk’ to the fire door or security door, the Wi-Fi system or the lifts.
“This is where Lamson’s vast experience and expertise comes to the fore.”
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