UCSF hospital gets help from robots for deliveries

The University of California-San Francisco hospital at Mission Bay is using a small army of robots to ferry food, linens, medications and more around the vast medical complex, reports Kaiser Health News.

The robots, called Tugs, primarily take things from one place to another. They travel about 35 miles each day; the fleet has made more than 157,000 trips through the hospital over the past year.

While the robots haven't replaced existing human workers, they have allowed the hospital to hire 30 fewer employees.

While the Tug program has cost UCSF about $6 million, including infrastructure changes to accommodate the robots, the healh system has still saved money, Dan Henroid, who is in charge of the fleet, tells KHN.

"The cost of transporting materials and supplies waste is an overhead cost. So the more you can do you that efficiently, the less cost you have," he explains.

The manufacturer says about 120 U.S. hospitals use Tugs. Though they're not involved in patient interaction, a team in Japan has developed a robot called "Terapio" to replace the medical cart. It not only can deliver resources, but also record information gathered during rounds.

NASA has a humanoid robot aboard the International Space Station to explore and refine how a robot can prevent stress injuries, provide assisted walking in rehab scenarios and use telemedicine to perform an ultrasound scan of a medical mannequin.

And Cornerstone Hospital Medical Center in Houston last summer unveiled a telemedicine robot called Bentley that supports clinical documentation, patient data and medical imaging.

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