Robots take on nursing duties at Japanese hospitals

It is hoped the robots will be able to reduce the legwork and pressure on nurses and doctors.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer
File Photo | CC0

Robotic helpers are making their way into Japanese hospitals to reduce the workload of human healthcare professionals.

As reported by local media The Asahi Shimbun, Nagoya University Hospital, based in Nagoya, Tsurumaicho, is planning to deploy a pilot program in February which will see a squadron of robots taking to the floor to deliver drugs and test samples.

At the beginning of the year-long pilot, four robots will work the night shift from 5 p.m. through 8 a.m., riding elevators to visit different floors while conducting their duties.

The robots are 125cm tall and capable of traveling at speeds of up to 3.6 kph carrying up to 30 kilograms.

The squad will travel between the Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Department of Hospital Pharmacy and Department of Clinical Laboratory to deliver fluids, test samples, and other objects medical staff may need.

Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are able to call a robot and give it a task to perform through tablets. It is hoped that these robots will be able to reduce the footfall and provide support to staff, reducing workload and improving efficiency.

Developed by Nagoya University and Toyota Industries, the robots contain radar technology and have a 360-degree field of vision. Should a human block their way, the robots can either go around them or ask the human to let them pass.

The robots automatically return to charging stations when they require a fresh injection of power.

"The workload can be reduced by using robots to do tasks that people have been doing," Naoki Ishiguro, Nagoya University Hospital's director, told the publication. "We hope to ensure that nurses and other professionals can concentrate more on their primary duties."

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Japan has also used innovative technology to reduce the workload of employees in other areas.

Last month, the "T-Friend" was revealed; an autonomous drone which flies across office ceilings while blaring out ear-splitting music to force employees to leave.

In a country where overwork is heavily connected to high suicide rates, it is hoped the drones will lessen the mental and physical strain of employees, even if standard working hours must be enforced in this way.

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