Milton Keynes University Hospital (MKUH) is trialing helper robots with the aim of supporting specific operational tasks such as delivering medicines, specimens, and clinical supplies.
Working with Academy of Robotics, a British artificial intelligence company, the Helper Bot robot was first tested in November last year with more operational trials throughout 2023 to deliver medicines on set routes to help hospital staff.
The trial will initially focus on addressing challenges around delays to care caused by increased demand on logistical activities such as movement of medicines, specimens and clinical supplies around the hospital.
Academy of Robotics has previously deployed their self-driving electric vehicle Kar-go on UK roads and the technology at MKUH builds upon this, with the organisation drawing on several systems developed for the Kar-go vehicles in order to help robots navigate around obstacles within the hospital.
The Helper Bot will also learn to navigate the surroundings between the hospital’s pharmacy and selected inpatient wards, to analyse how similar robots can be used to collect non-controlled medication and deliver them to ward staff.
The robot was designed through a number of design thinking workshops and online engagements by hospital staff in pathology, pharmacy, support services and estates.
Data and feedback that will be generated from the trial will help the trust to understand how the technology can be used safely across the whole hospital and potentially across the wider NHS.
Professor Joe Harrison, Chief Executive at Milton Keynes University Hospital, said: “This trial is an opportunity to test the safety and efficacy of this technology and we will continue to work closely with all teams involved to understand how it can be most effectively utilised in the future.”
William Sachiti, Founder and CEO at Academy of Robotics, added: “How people feel when they interact with technology is also particularly important in a hospital. We make some of the most complicated machines in the world. The reasons why we make them and how such machines are used matters a lot to us. These Helper Bots are there to try and make life that little bit easier for both hospital staff and patients: to be there when needed and out of the way when they are not.”