Opportunities for robots to help in the OR
All, I wanted to introduce you to one of my colleagues in the Software Sciences & Analytics organization at GE Global Research. She has a background in chemical engineering and has been doing work in Cyber Physical Systems. One of those true renaissance engineers: curious, passionate and who can do anything. She has a great project to discuss here and I am excited to get to it. Without further ado…
My name is Lynn DeRose and I am a Chemist in the Intelligent Networks Lab at GE Global Research. I would like to tell you about an opportunity that I have been working on with a few others around using robots in the perioperative sterilization process in operating rooms (OR).
As a team we responded to a proposal from the VA hospital to field test and develop a system to automate the sterilization of reusable medical implements. The solution addresses safety concerns to patients as a result of inadequately sterilized surgical implements. In a hearing before the Committee of Veterans Affairs in the U.S. House of representatives titled: “Sacred Obligation, Restoring Veteran Trust and Patient Safety”, it was reported that thousands of veterans were informed that they may have contracted infectious diseases due in part to lapses in the sterilization of reusable medical equipment.
The logistics of sterilizing, sorting, building, transporting and counting sterile implements is labor and capital intensive. People are interrupted, lose focus, are hurried, poorly trained etc. and errors are made. We have proposed a solution that integrates the following technologies:
1. Robotics to move the implements throughout the sterilization process, build surgical kits and deliver the kits to the correct OR
2. Auto-ID Technologies for implement and Kit ID, automatic routing and location tracking
3. Optical Recognition Analytics for implement recognition, kit validation and automatic routing and
Some real development tasks to contend with include the interaction between robots and humans. In this case they would exist in shared space. The gripping and dexterious capability of robotic hands. A “light touch” may be required for many of these tasks. And finally the complete integration of auto-ID, optical recognition and robotics will be difficult.
We are very excited about the opportunity and think we have a great team that can pull this development together and help our veterans in the process.