The robotics industry has come a long way over the past 10 years, but nothing will bring automation to the front of our minds like an international pandemic. Aged care providers are under more strain than ever before, and the added cost of COVID-19 is immeasurable.
Aged care facilities in Australia who have integrated robotics in the last three years, are now acutely aware that this technology is an essential service, and much needed with the increased workloads and infection control processes in full force. Robotic transport and robotic sterilisation could play a significant part in supporting aged care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the future.
The use of automation for manual trolley transport and sterilising will improve infection control processes, remove thousands of klm’s of transporting items, and reduce risks to residents and staff. Aged care facilities collaborating with technology integrators such as, Lamson, to minimise double handling of items, and reducing exposure risks to residents and aged care staff, will be vital.
UV sterilisation robots, which eliminates bacteria and viruses, will protect staff, residents and their families. Additionally, significant staff efficiencies are possible, and risk reduction and costs associated with infections can be reduced with robots moving trolleys.
UV Disinfection (UVD) Robots
The UVD Robot is a TGA approved autonomous mobile robot emitting concentrated UV-C light onto infectious rooms, corridors, or hotspots. Such robots can be used in aged care facilities during COVID-19, and to reduce ongoing risks of virus or bacterial outbreaks. It is believed that the cost of one outbreak to a facility (over 2-3 months) can exceed $100,000. That said, the true cost of COVID-19 is yet unknown, and could be catastrophic for a provider.
UVD robots can prevent the spread of infectious microorganisms in the environment by breaking down their DNA structure and killing 99.99% of bacteria/viruses without spraying large amounts of chemicals on floors, décor, and in resident rooms. Such robots could be used:
Aged care providers can have the reassurance that their building can be sterilised in a fast and effective way during and after the pandemic.
UVD robots can be purchased outright, or they can be hired in an on-demand organisation shared arrangement. Such hire and shared arrangements allow facilities to book a time for the UVD robot to be moved from facility-to-facility so that the robot is used throughout the day and night.
On the other hand, transport robots can save, on average, up to 87 trolley transports/facility/day or 31,755 trolley transports a year (meals, linen, waste, clothing, supplies and dirty linen – Lamson White Paper 2019, average across 37 facilities). However, during an outbreak, the cost to deliver items to the wings and remove contaminated items more frequently would dramatically increase these numbers. This is particularly an issue for removing items from the wings such as waste, dirty linen and ‘used’ meal trolleys/dishes.
Also the cost of staff time is significant at over 3,650 hrs/year/site wasted on moving trolleys from one place to the next. This distance is like asking staff to push a trolley from Brisbane to Perth every year. This is a huge manual handling risk and during these transports there could be over 95,000 hand touch points along the way (surfaces such as doors, lift buttons etc).
Automating transports and sterilisation:
Leonie Mulheran is National Business Development Manager at Lamson. She is also innovAGEING’s Expert-in-Residence for Robotics and Care.