Delivering Better Care: Automating Back-of-House Tasks with Robots

3 years ago
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Tanunda Lutheran Home (TLH) is a Not-for-Profit aged care facility located in the rural town of Tanunda – Barossa Valley. TLH has 120 residents receiving high care services. TLH employs 180 staff to care for the various and increasing needs of our frail aged residents. The size of the TLH building being predominately one level means the large distances between each neighbourhood puts the staff at a disadvantage due to the time it takes to deliver meals, clothing, linen etc.

It has been established that staff currently push various types of trolleys 32,646 times around the facility over 8,589 kms per annum. The time taken to complete these tasks has been calculated as over 12 hours a day. An annual saving of $178,685.00 is projected by implementing the robotic automated trolley system. The kilometres travelled by staff is like walking from Adelaide to Sydney to Brisbane then to Cairns through Alice Springs and to Perth each year.

Automating trolley transport at TLH means:

  • Manual handling of trolleys would be removed from day-to-day operations (32,464 trips or 8,859klm per annum)
  • Back and shoulder injuries reduced for kitchen, laundry, cleaning and care staff
  • Improvement in infection control due to less touch points for contamination with no doors, buttons, handrails being touched along the way (approximately 259,713 touch points removed/year)
  • Reduced sick leave and insurance claims, short or long-term impacts on staff and their families
  • Being a regional facility, it is difficult to employ staff, TLH can now make the most of staff they have rather than reducing quality of services to residents
  • Staff will go home less exhausted each day
  • Reduced stress as staff no longer fears when they push a trolley it may collide with residents
  • A fun, safe and innovative place to work, entices staff to work for the facility
  • Upskilling staff for more direct care-based activities, better service for their residents
  • Improved job satisfaction, improved skills and associated promotion opportunities
  • Service robots increase face to face time with residents, provides more care to improve the lives of residents
  • Increased safety, as staff do not leave the wing for supplies (not leaving staff alone and unsupported)
  • Trolley transport is a high-risk activity (resident collisions); therefore, the robots will remove the majority of this risk and decrease the risk for legal and public indemnity costs

The benefits to be gained from saving operational funds and maintain a small surplus will be used to ensure care, improve infection control measures, contact times and services to our residents is improved. TLH has a requirement to upgrade the facility in the near future as the buildings are no longer meeting efficiencies, security, or functionality. This installation will form a part of creating financial sustainability for TLH.

The introduction of the Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) system will reduce operating costs by a suggested $180,000.00 per year by removing 32,464 trolley transports. This time saved plus additional time saved by removing distractions along the way will mean staff can improve the delivery of meals, send stores & linen (clean & dirty) around the facility more efficiently and greatly improve the quality of life for staff and residents due to improved quality of services. The impact of using the technology reduces wasted time and increases quality in food preparation rather than wasting time transporting food. There will also be improved staff health & safety by reducing the repetitive and intensive processes, improved infection control, reduced labour turnover and recruitment issues being in a rural location and finally reduced capital costs.

The robots are designed not to collide with obstacles as the sensors on the robots ensure it stops before touching an obstacle, resident, wheelchair etc. This technology provides increased security so that personnel are protected, and décor is not damaged during trolley transports. With robots moving the trolleys, staff can do more for the residents.

Improvements in infection control, with reduced touch points around the facility (approximately 259,713 touch points removed/year). With these arising from 32,464 transports, the improvement in infection control will be significant.

It has been demonstrated in facilities using the robots that staff and residents accept the robot as part of their environment and have accepted the change with extremely positive feedback. To assist with the introduction of the robots a naming competition has commenced. The TLH Chaplain has also agree to conduct a “naming ceremony” to ensure the robot are properly identified.

Lamson is the external company that will support the installation, an Australian company established in 1898. The workforce Lamson have Australia wide supporting hospitals and retailers means that TLH will have the maintenance, onsite support and expertise required.

A local builder will assist in the project by adjusting doorways and converting doors to automatic opening doors that will allow easy passage for the robots.

On the successful competition of the project, TLH would be the first aged care organisation in South Australia to utilise the AMR system. This will have the effect of positive media, entice staff to seek employment at TLH and increased visits to the TLH service. TLH would be happy to have interested organisations to visit and observe the robots doing their tasks.

Lee Martin, CEO and Director of Care at Tanunda Lutheran Home