Robot to deliver meals, medication to Covid-19 patients in S'pore

Robot to deliver meals, medication to Covid-19 patients in S'pore

Alexandra Hospital says the robot, know as BeamPro, allows patients to be inspected remotely while being isolated. (Photo from Alexandra Hospital via TODAY)
Alexandra Hospital says the robot, know as BeamPro, allows patients to be inspected remotely while being isolated. (Photo from Alexandra Hospital via TODAY)

SINGAPORE: Some patients at Alexandra Hospital suspected or confirmed to have Covid-19 infection are soon set to receive their meals and medication from a robot.

A second robot is being deployed to clean and chats with patients in four languages, as well as Singlish.

By the end of this month, one robot, called BeamPro, will begin making its rounds in the hospital’s two isolation wards, a hospital spokesperson said on Wednesday, according to TODAY.

Details of the use of the robot technology were outlined in the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Committee of Supply debate on Thursday.

Alexandra Hospital has only one confirmed case of Covid-19, which the MOH identified as Case 74, who remains in stable condition after being admitted on Feb 15. Another 14 suspected cases are in isolation at the hospital, the hospital spokesperson said at the media briefing on Wednesday.

BeamPro had been housed at the hospital’s Centre for Innovation in Healthcare for over three months before the Covid-19 outbreak, but trials for its use began just two weeks ago. BeamPro makes it possible for patients to be inspected remotely while being isolated, the spokesperson said.

“The Covid-19 situation is an opportunity for us to accelerate healthcare transformation. With Covid-19 there was a great opportunity to launch the telepresence robot,” said Alexander Yip, Clinical Director of Health Technology at Alexandra Hospital, at the briefing.

“The main aim of this telepresence robot is to reduce the unnecessary risk of exposure to healthcare workers by allowing us to move the robot into the room instead,” he added.

Once the robot enters the room, doctors or nurses are able to see the patient via a camera on the robot. The patient, likewise, will be able to see the healthcare professional who is controlling the robot’s movements with a computer from outside the room, via a large screen on the robot.

“We can use BeamPro to ask very basic, simple questions. We take their history and see what we need to find out. And from there, we make the decision as to whether we need to put on the full PPE and go in to examine the patient further. This is always based on the physician's best judgment,” Dr Yip said.

PPE, or personal protective equipment, consists of an N95 mask, a gown, gloves and a face shield or eye protection, explained Ms Amanda Kok, Nurse Manager at Alexandra Hospital. Nine to 17 sets of PPEs can be used per patient per day, she said. Gloves and gowns have to be discarded after every use while N95 masks and face shields or goggles can be worn for up to six hours or until soiled.

“Imagine going into an isolation room each time, then having to remove your PPE right away. Then before moving onto the next patient in isolation, you gear up again. Every time you have to put it on, it increases the chance of human error. Perhaps this time you're not wearing the mask tight enough,” said Dr Yip.

BeamPro can be affixed with trays so that it can deliver medications and food.

BeamPro will also be used for other contagious infections like chicken pox and measles.

A second robot, LionsBot, is being deployed for sweeping, mopping, vacuuming and scrubbing at the hospital, according to a media release issued by Alexandra Hospital on Thursday.

“LionsBot robots are social minglers that bring joy and delight, to engage, entertain, even exchange a simple conversation, in four languages, as well as Singlish,” it added.

In another innovative use of technology, the hospital also started vCare, a virtual consultation service, on Feb 20, conducting virtual consultations for patients via the Zoom platform.

“When patients who are isolated get discharged we always advise him to stay at home. And so this is where we leverage our efforts in telemedicine to be able to communicate with these patients at home, in the safety of their home without bringing them back into the hospital or into the community during this period,” said Dr Yip.

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