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A fleet of transport robots arrive to Upstate Medical University

Upstate TUG robot
John Smith / WAER News
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Patients, families and visitors are going to see these robots on hospital floors at Upstate University Hospital

Hospitals are always reasonably busy with nurses tending to multiple patients. Now, Upstate University Hospital and its adjacent Upstate Cancer Center have some new technology to lighten the workload. You might call it co-worker that has multiple missions to move around hospital floors slowly but, safely at 30 inches per second. They’re not very chatty but, they’ll announce the most important thing upon arrival, (Robot's voice) “Your order has arrived!”

It’s a robot known as a TUG and stands stand at 4 feet tall by 2 feet wide and will be transporting prescriptions, for now, in secure drawers. The fleet of 14 are already beginning to turn heads navigating on and off elevators. Yeah, with advanced sensors, robots are getting pretty independent these days. CEO Dr. Robert Corona says programming their routes will be handled by 20 different hospital departments weekly.

"We had our systems engineers map out what a nurse does, for instance, running back to get linens, a syringe, supplies. Now the nurse stays at the bedside. All that stuff is saved by the robot doing the work."

Then it’s on to the next nurses’ station, pharmacy or the adjacent Cancer Center. Following the initial implementation, the hospital hopes to program the TUGS to also transport linens, meals and medical supplies in its securely locked drawers. So, what’s next?

“We've actually got robots that look like animals, dogs with four legs. They can climb stairs so they won't have to use the elevator. We have two of those robots coming.”

The use of transport robots at Upstate will likely grow and is expected to free-up even more time as tasks are added; so nurses can maximize time with patients.