A hospital in Ireland is using cutting-edge software robots to help free up nurses to spend as much time with patients as possible during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mater Misericordiae University Hospital in Dublin will now have robots that rapidly process administrative and computer-based tasks that nurses normally have to do.
It is hoped that by giving nurses more available time they can spend it at the side of critically ill patients fighting COVID-19.
Software developers at UiPath developed a system that will speed up the often clunky processes inside the healthcare system.
It is hoped that by getting computers do most of the mundane admin tasks they can spend up to 50 per cent more time with patients.
The tech will also ‘speed up the process of analysing and communicating COVID-19 test results to patients and organisations around the world.
Jincy Jerry, Assistant Director of Nursing, Infection Prevention and Control at the hospital, said: ‘Given that IPC nurses spend close to 30 per cent of their day with administrative tasks, for the past few months I have been looking at ways to make software robots part of our daily jobs.
‘With the COVID-19 pandemic unfolding now, it is crucial that all frontline staff are freed up as much as possible to spend time with patients and deal with this outbreak, rather than being in front of computers.
‘Not only will automation help with this, but it will also take the strain off the hospital as it continues to process huge amounts of more routine patient data in addition to Covid-19 specific information.’
‘As we’ve already seen, alongside the public playing their part in physical distancing, fast diagnosis and appropriate self-isolation are crucial to preventing the spread of COVID-19.
‘We’re confident that the project we’re embarking on will help mitigate the huge strain this outbreak is putting on healthcare organisations – not just in MMUH, but across Ireland.’
Mark O’Connor, Public Sector Director Ireland at UiPath, added: ‘With a robot for every nurse approach, essential frontline staff will be freed to be nurses and not system administrators, being able to focus more on the quality of care – which can make a real difference when it comes to treating patients in times of need.’
The move from the hospital comes as robot experts say machines could be trained to disinfect surfaces, take temperatures and collect swabs.
Adding new functionalities to robots would enable the ‘dull, dirty and dangerous jobs’ to be automated.
In an editorial for a scientific journal, Howie Choset of the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and other signatories write: ”The experiences with the (2015) Ebola outbreak identified a broad spectrum of use cases [for robots],’ the team wrote.
‘Many of these applications would serve to help reduce the risk of humans being directly exposed to disease.
‘But funding for multidisciplinary research in partnership with agencies and industry to meet these use cases remains expensive, rare and directed to other applications.’