Engineers at GE Global Research (Niskayuna, NY, USA) are involved in a $2.5m two-year project to develop a vision-based robotic system that could transform the way hospitals manage and track their thousands of surgical tools.
Working with GE Healthcare and the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA), the engineers will develop a prototype system capable of locating, sorting, delivering, and sterilizing surgical tools with little oversight.
"The technologies we're investigating have been used to automate manufacturing processes in industrial settings for years, and we believe they, in combination with a new level of intelligence, can have a substantial impact in hospitals," said Lynn DeRose, Principal Investigator in the Distributed Intelligent Systems Lab at GE Global Research.
In most hospitals today, tools are inspected, washed, and counted multiple times by hand. This process is inefficient, fraught with errors, and could lead to critical delays, and more importantly, adverse patient events.
Having an intelligent automated solution handle the labor-intensive asset management tasks has the added benefit of freeing-up hospital personnel, who are in many cases already stretched.
At the conclusion of the project, automated systems will be tested at a yet-to-be determined VA hospital.
A short video detailing the project is available on the Youtube here.
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-- Dave Wilson, Senior Editor, Vision Systems Design