|As part of GE's automation system this robotic arm would be capable of picking up, placing, organizing, and accounting for the medical implements that go into surgical toolkits. (Photo: Business Wire)|
In conjunction with General Electric (GE) Healthcare and the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA), the GE Global Research group is commencing a two-year, $2.5 million project to develop a prototype robotic system that will be capable of locating, sorting, delivering, and sterilizing surgical tools. Using a combination of robotic systems, computer vision technology, and RFID tracking and identification, the system will function with little oversight and manage tools and medical devices for doctors.Once complete, the prototype system will be placed into a VA hospital where it will be able to perform kitting of surgical tools, sterilization functions, and even transport tools to and from the operating theater when needed while also ensuring they are sterile and in working order.
Lynn DeRose, principle investigator and auto-ID technology expert in the Distributed Intelligent Systems Lab at GE Global Research says that GE is hoping to combine technologies that have been used in industrial automated manufacturing processes for years with new artificial intelligence technologies to have a significant impact on hospital throughput, patient safety, and healthcare costs. “At GE, we’re uniquely positioned to construct a smart solution that can make operating rooms run more efficiently, save millions of dollars in healthcare costs and lead to better patient outcomes,” DeRose says. “According to experts in the field, the surgical operation and recovery setting is considered the fastest growing and most resource intensive section of the hospital, accounting for approximately 30 - 50% of a hospital’s budget. Simply put, the operating theater is the single largest contributor to a facility’s bottom line. Any gains in efficiency that lead to more revenue being generated will be felt in a big way.”
Lynn DeRose discusses GE Global Research's automated sterilization system: