SINGAPORE: The new Centre for Healthcare Assistive and Robotics Technology (CHART) at Changi General Hospital (CGH) will aim to leverage robotics and assistive technology to develop healthcare solutions.
The new centre, officially opened by President Tony Tan Keng Yam on Thursday (Jul 23), will study ways to improve staff productivity and safety, enhance automating processes to optimise the healthcare workforce and enable patients to live their lives independently.
Since February this year, a robot called HOSPI has been delivering items such as medicine, medical specimen and patients' case files within the hospital. It is able to move around and even use the lifts on its own.
The items HOSPI carries can only be accessed with ID cards. The robot also has trays for medical staff to put items on. It communicates and relays information on its whereabouts to the control centre, enabling its location to be monitored at all times.
HOSPI is also equipped with security features to prevent tampering, theft and damage during delivery. It is equipped with sensors and programmed with the hospital's map data to avoid obstacles such as patients in wheelchairs. New hospital routes can also be programmed in advance.
Use of the robot helps to save manpower and boosts the hospital's productivity by up to 30 per cent.
"We recognise that the hospital is growing. Now we have added a new building and we are adding a medical centre in the near future,” said CGH CEO Dr Lee Chien Earn. “Distances get further and our porters have to walk correspondingly longer distances. Our porters are also getting older, so it can be challenging for them if they were to deliver the case notes and the products within a short period of time or walking long distances."
The new centre will test such technologies before use in the hospital. It will be equipped with a design lab as well as a living lab with mock wards, clinics and surgery rooms. It said it will work with various healthcare clusters, care providers, and partners from academia and the research industry to come up with new technologies.
An interactive robot that can entertain patients while they wait for their appointments and humour children during vaccinations is among the projects.
Another project being tested is a system to sort out surgery instruments. It is usually done by a nurse's assistant, and automating the process will eliminate human error.
"By using this system, the benefit is that only one temporary staff is required and the training takes only two hours,” said Mr Tohisyuki Itabashi, general manager of Murata Machinery, of the experience seen in Japan where the system has been deployed.
“There is also 50 per cent improvement in their work and you save about three hours when using this system."
Currently, CGH is collaborating with Nanyang Technological University as well as the Singapore University of Technology and Design on the test projects at CHART.