Panasonic robots act as porters in Singapore hospital
August 11, 2015
If you check into to Changi General Hospital (CGH) in Singapore, don’t be surprised to see robots whizzing around doing the job of porters. The robots come from Japanese company Panasonic to improve operational efficiency in the hospital.
Experimental use of the Hospi autonomous delivery robot began in February 2015 and they are being implemented in phases. CGH is the first hospital outside of Japan to use Hospi. As part of the hospital's porter management system, the four Hospi robots can deliver fragile and bulky medicine, medical specimens, and patients' case notes round the clock, easing labour constraints.
The robots are equipped with security features to prevent tampering, theft and damage during delivery. The robot's contents can only be accessed with ID cards. Automation lets them move around using the lifts and between facilities in the main and integrated buildings on their own, delivering medicine and specimens.
"Singapore has often been dubbed a living laboratory for companies to experiment and co-create solutions,” said Panasonic’s assistant general manager Rubina Gan. “Panasonic is excited to work together with Changi General Hospital to phase in our Hospi robots for full deployment so that eventually medical caregivers' time is freed up for dedicated patient care and treatment. Chart's (Centre for Healthcare Assistive & Robotics Technology) opening cements how technology and solutions can play a key role in healthcare in the future."
Each Hospi is programmed with the hospital's map data and equipped with sensors to avoid obstacles such as patients in wheelchairs and complete deliveries with minimal supervision. New hospital routes can be programmed in advance, allowing flexibility. The autonomous robot communicates and relays information via Wifi on its whereabouts to the control centre, enabling its location to be monitored and recorded at all times.
"Hospi can help us save manpower and time in a simple and practical way especially with the challenges we are facing with an aging workforce whilst our healthcare facilities increase in size and distance,” said Selina Seah, assistant chief executive officer at Changi General Hospital. “By harnessing autonomous technology like Hospi, we can optimise our workforce and improve productivity. We welcome Panasonic as a Chart partner to work with us to innovate healthcare operations and patient care."
Panasonic is also test-bedding the use of Reysone, an electric care bed that separates and converts into a wheelchair safely and conveniently, at CGH. This two-in-one care bed not only facilitates the transfer and movement of patients, but also eliminates the need for additional storage areas. The test-bed will run for six months.
By continuing to build a solid foundation for healthcare robotics, Panasonic aims to deploy Hospi to other local hospitals in future.
Each robot weighs about 170kg including battery, which lasts for about nine hours and can be charged in about four or five hours. The robots are nearly 140cm high and can carry up to 20kg. Top speed is one metre per second.
CGH is an award-winning public hospital with more than 1000 beds serving a community of 1.4 million people in eastern Singapore.