Friday, March 12, 2010

My New Robotic "Coworker"

The pharmacy at my new hospital has a PHARMACY ROBOT (not pictured below). His name is TUG (actually, it is a TUG), and it looks like a mini-fridge on wheels. It delivers medications to the floors. It is "mapped" to the entire hospital, so it navigates itself, even using the service elevators. It also speaks.

It's been in the hospital for a long time, longer than the pharmacy manager (who was doing our orientation) can remember, but they don't use it very often anymore. The reason is that, while it has sensors and has never hit anyone or anything, it gets very close to things—within inches. It makes close shaves by people and carts, or it will stop right up next to someone, which is apparently somewhat alarming, especially to visitors. It also sometimes blocks people in, following them into bends or corners in the hall and then stopping right up next them. It's trying to not to hit them, but they just feel like they're being held hostage in the corner.

Like I said, it speaks to people. If someone touches it, it says "Don't touch me!" If it's getting on the elevator and someone enters along with it, it says "I prefer to ride alone. Please let me ride up by myself." If you insist on staying, it tries to get back off the elevator, which leads to some awkward situations where people and the robot are both trying to get on and off the elevator at once. And if you push it, say if it's got you cornered and you're trying to escape, it tells you not to push it.

It also has a large button that people can use to send it back to the pharmacy if they think it's doing something in error (like cornering Grandma in the hallway), so nurses are always hitting the button and sending it back, while meanwhile some poor pharmacist is roaming the floors looking for it.

They say it's still useful, they say, for delivering heavy things, like fifty bags of IV saline. That's awesome, because hopefully I'll run into it (him?) someday.

Incidentally, the hospital where my final school clinicals took place had mopping machine robots, like little zambonis. Maybe the next sexy hospital drama soap opera TV show should be about hospital robots instead of residents.

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  1. I still can't believe this has no comments. I found the whole thing hilarious. At least it got some recognition on CoS.

  2. Yeah, I can't believe that either! I think it's awesome. There's probably other applications, too...a walking mini-fridge? With a coffeemaker on top? The nurses would love it.

  3. That story just cracked me up! I can't imagine running into that thing on the floor! :-) Since I'm in a Children's hospital, I think that thing may have potential to cause both laughter and crying from scarred children running away from it. Awesome!

  4. this reminds me of an article i just read :)