Photo courtesy of CNN

Changi General Hospital deploys 50 staff robots

Robotics are innovating the Singaporean healthcare industry through precision and power.

The Centre for Healthcare Assistive and Robotics Technology (CHART) is working with Singapore's Changi General Hospital (CGH) to solve problems in healthcare with high-technology solutions. The 1,000-bed hospital has deployed 50 robots as part of its staff, with their duties ranging from performing surgery to doing administrative work since 2015.

In an interview with CNN, CHART Director Selina Seah said there is growing awareness of robots becoming indispensable in their work. "Due to COVID-19 and the fact that we have to take care of more patients with less manpower, robots are now a welcome part of our daily life," she added.

Three concerns for small nations like Singapore, according to Seah, are an ageing population, a shrinking workforce, and an increase in chronic disease. CHART is using robots to assist in minimally invasive surgeries by using the da Vinci Surgical System. It also utilizes robots to clean, deliver linen or food, and lift patients off their beds. Another area where robots help is in virtual health services. Social robots provide care and companionship for ageing patients with dementia. They also help alleviate stress and anxiety so the hospital can reduce its use of sedatives for patients.

According to National University of Singapore's Mechanical Engineering Professor Marcelo Ang, "Robotics has a potential to make people's lives more meaningful, by letting them not do the "five Ds: degrading, demeaning, dirty, dangerous or driving tasks." He added that robots are there to support and not replace healthcare workers.

Seah notes there are challenges in integrating robotics into the workplace, such as the need for robust cybersecurity to maintain data privacy and prevent hacking. However, increased efficiency and safety, particularly during the pandemic, have made these challenges worthwhile for CGH.

Aside from CGH, Copenhagen University Hospital and Zealand University Hospital in Denmark have used robots for blood sample testing and hospital equipment delivery since 2017.

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