How to Make a Hospital Stay Even More Dehumanizing: Robot Workers

By Joseph Calamia | June 18, 2010 4:11 pm

hospfoodSure, you’ve seen doctors use robots to perform surgeries, but how about robots to bring you your Jello afterward?  That’s the plan at one Scottish hospital. Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, Stirlingshire is running final tests on a robot helper fleet that will deliver food, give drugs, and clean the OR–the first such system in the UK.

As the BBC reports, hospital staff can use PDAs to call the laser-guided robots, which will travel through the hospital via underground corridors and can open doors and operate elevators. The hospital will have some robots performing clean tasks (like prepping a room for surgery) and others dirty tasks (like removing clinical waste)–and believes this will reduce infection caused by the current human system.

The hospital claims that the system isn’t meant to replace people, only to give the staff more time with patients. The robot designers claim that the machines have programming to keep them from hitting people. No one claims that patients will be happy to be attended to by metallic minions, or that doctors and nurses won’t get annoyed by the robots rattling down the hallways.

Related content:
Discoblog: Robot Model Struts the Catwalk in Japan
Discoblog: Tiny Jumping Robot Can Find Enemies, Scale Fences
Discoblog: Update: “Corpse-Eating Robot” Actually a Vegetarian
Discoblog: Sweden Fines Factory After Near-Deadly Robot Attack

Image: flickr / davef3138

MORE ABOUT: hospitals, robots
  • Old Rockin’ Dave

    I worked twenty years in hospitals as a physician assistant and certainly understand the reasoning behind these robots but I do not think the technology is ready for prime time. During my two recent hospitalizations, I was reassured to see people deliver my meals and clean the floor. It was human contact when my family and friends could not be there. During the first one, the floor cleaner was so bright and cheery that I looked forward to his daily round. It also was possible to ask for help with small things I was not able to do for myself and couldn’t ring the nursing station for in good conscience. There also was reassurance in knowing that if I was in obvious distress and could not ring or did not get a response that these people would notice and get me help.
    A robot delivering your meal or mopping up will not care how you feel today and will go about its business even if you are hemorrhaging, gasping for air or lying on the floor with a broken hip. Not today; maybe in ten or fifteen years.

  • Joseph Calamia

    Thanks so much for your comment. It’s great to get your perspective–especially as a physician assistant. I hope that the hospital is really using the robots to give hospital staff more free time with the patients.

  • steinmentz1

    Robots can already be used for remote location surgery. Remember that spy drones over Afghanistan can be piloted from an office in Colorado or Arizona.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.

See More

Collapse bottom bar