Overview

A Mobile Robotic Project was created to improve operational efficiency in hospitals, The Ohio State University Medical Center (OSUMC) has successful developed the ATS (Automated Transport System) to help hospitals in their activities. The Automated Transport System includes robotic “vehicle” to move meals, linens, medical supplies and trash throughout the 1,000 bed healthcare facility. This project came at a time when there was a decline in revenue and rising costs at the hospital.

The hospital formed a steering committee that comprised of consultants, IT, vendor and other hospital departments and was responsible for the success of this project. The medical staffs at the hospital was convinced with the project because it greatly improved patient care and working conditions (Gomersall, 2003). The robots that are used at the hospital are guided by a wireless infra-red network from Cisco Systems.

The whole network for the project is found along the hospital corridor walls and the lifts have been designed for the robots’ use. The network has been integrated with three Windows servers which help the system to maintain traffic patterns and a database of robot jobs (Gomersall, 2003).

Key Issues

Like any other technology, small hitch may exist, causing the vehicles (robots) to lose connection with the wireless network (LAN network). These are the results of failure of the hospital to provide complete coverage within the healthcare facility environment (primary due to steel construction and RF hostile concrete.

Additionally, constant movement many people within the hospital (such as doctors, medical students and visitors) will provide varying attenuation that will result in unpredictable or erratic coverage at the healthcare facility. When people are connected to a network through a wireless LAN communication, they adapt to coverage holes within the network by moving to places that have stronger signals (Kachroo, 2007).

For example, if a mobile phone doesn’t have a stronger signal at a particular area, a person using the mobile phone will move to a place which has a stronger signal. Similarly, a transponder that is found in the vehicle (robot) will allow the vehicle to continue three or four moves along the network if the robot loses connectivity. This distance is approximately 7 feet and amounts for about 14 seconds, and is based on the speed of the vehicle or robot.

The biggest challenge in implementing the Automated Transport System (ATS) was the development of “mistake-proof” software. “Mistake-proof” software requires from the creator of the program to consider all the actions that can be made by the transponder or operator, and to eliminate these mistakes with additional processes and verifications.

At the hospital, there is a total of 46 robots and this has not been easy to coordinate. Thus, “mistake-proof software” has created a system that is less susceptible to network or system instability, as well as creating a safe environment at the hospital.

Non-technical problems or challenges that affected the project were space recovery and many operational changes that were involved in the project implementation. For many years, many departments at the hospital have managed to utilize space available on various floors and elevators. This was a challenge since many departments were involved and many people in these departments were against the implementation of the project (Kachroo, 2007).

Alternative solution

Naturally, making changes at the hospital and making employees at the hospital accept the idea of having vehicles (or robots) is a labor-intensive efforts. This is because the project is going to replace those tasks which were performed by humans; it goes against human nature. Therefore, the management at the hospital should consider educating its employees so that it can prepare the employees to accept the new changes brought at the hospital.

Evaluation of alternatives

In order for the project to be successful there must be a one-to-one contact between those implementing the project and the staff at the hospital. The I & E approach will help the hospital to accept the project, thus help increase the participations of staff at the hospital. Information about the project will be successfully transmitted to staff at the hospital by trusted staffs of the hospital. Participation will increase if some of the staffs are employed as I & E specialists (Ouma, 2008).

Recommendation

In order for the potential of ATS (Automated Transport System) to be realized, there must be an increase in sensitization (public awareness) of the project and this can be done through educating people (Ouma, 2008).

Secondly, similar projects should be implemented in other health facilities since it has the potential of reducing cost and time as seen at the hospital. Lastly, the hospital should be encouraged to seek financial support that will help them to mitigate risks as a result of project like ATS (Automated Transport System) at the hospital (Wedemeyer, 2011).

Possible result and obstacles to implementation

One result of this system is that it has a well structured Security Model will give organizations a way to study, implement and maintain network security that can be used in the organization network. In an organization, Security Model can be used to ensure that the organization does not miss any important security details when a network is designed (Wedemeyer, 2011).

Existing network Security Model will be used to develop lifecycles for the security and maintenance schedules of the existing network. In other words, Security Model will be used to detect where breaches has occurred in the organization network so that the organization can mitigate the attack. This means that “mistake-proof” software will not allow the system to be hacked on.

Another advantage of this technology is that it has improved communication and saves time at the hospital. The time spends in the movement to take drugs or checking on the patients has been reduced since the doctor is able to monitor his/her patient remotely.

The barriers of the project are as follows: the ATS project has changed the traditional way of transportation in the hospital to a full intelligent and automated transportation network. The main problem of this project is not technological limits, but conceptual, cultural, emotional, social, economical and political hurdles.

The barriers and inhibitions that are preventing innovative ground for the system are very complex, and this includes employees at the hospital who may be afraid of losing their jobs. Another barrier involves the initial cost of implementing this project which is expensive for the hospital (Wedemeyer, 2011).

Conclusion

This project shows that robots are suitable to be used as a delivery mechanism in hospitals. The success of this project is due to the fact that there was adequate training and acceptance of the project by the hospital staff. As with automation project in health facilities, management issues should be given a priority at the time of the implementation of the project so that the benefit of the project is realized.

References

Gomersall, A. (2003). Robotics: an international bibliography with abstracts. New York: IFS Publisher.

Kachroo, P. (2007). Mobile robots XI and automated vehicle control systems: 20-21 November, 1996, Boston, Massachusetts. New York: SPIE Publisher.

Ouma, S. (2008). Assessing Technology for Rural Hospitals. New York: Tshwane University of Technology

Wedemeyer, D. (2011). Pacific Telecommunications Conference: papers and proceedings of a conference held January 12-14, 1981, at the Ilikai Hotel, Honolulu, Hawaii. Cornell University: Pacific Telecommunications Council.