Robots used in hospitals for covid 19

Robots Vs Coronavirus

robots used in hospitals for covid 19
pandemic robots

When Invento Robotics first started, their Mitra robots got no favor with hospitals. But since COVID-19 hit Indian shores, the same naysayers have turned into fans.

When Balaji Viswanathan, Founder of Bengaluru-based start-up Invento Robotics first started out in October 2016, one of their aims was to work in the healthcare space. The company even approached some of India's largest hospitals with their flagship product, Mitra, a robot with AI capabilities that recognize guests based on facial recognition and also engages them in conversations, while simultaneously alerting the hosts of their arrival.

However, hospitals weren’t too keen on adopting Mitra, and the company moved into other industries, like banks and malls. The humanoid robot first gained fame when it was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Ivanka Trump in November 2017 at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) 2017 conference in Hyderabad.

Three years later, Invento Robotics is becoming a key player in the healthcare market, with multiple hospitals vying for the robot during the pandemic. Currently, the robots are deployed in 10 hospitals in the country including Fortis Hospital in Bengaluru, Yatharth Hospital in Noida, and Apollo Hospitals.

covid 19 robots

We know that the virus has really stretched our health infrastructure’s bandwidth. While the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has stated that over 500 doctors in the country have died due to COVID-19, the actual number could be far more, as the Centre does not maintain a database of health workers who have succumbed to the virus. Vishwanathan’s robots cannot replace the brave frontline workers, but they can minimize contact, and thus, prevent more fatalities.

It all began in February when COVID-19 was noticed, albeit slowly. Invento planned to start an office in China, the birthplace of the virus. However, by the time the company could re-engineer the robot for hospitals, India was feeling the effects of the virus, and a national lockdown was initiated.

"Before we officially initiated a pilot program in Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru, a lot of the discussions about the robot took place in Phoenix Hospital, Mumbai, from which we collected data. The doctors worked with us to fine-tune the product and following that, we began working with Fortis, and the team was very cooperative. The doctors really helped us build the right product for the healthcare market," says Vishwanathan.

The company completely repurposed the robots and added a whole bunch of software, including AI capabilities to detect temperature accurately, the ability to disinfect areas using its self-mobility feature, and also print out prescriptions. The robots are also equipped with LIDAR technology — think of it as eyes for the robot. 

automation after covid 19

It looks like a ball that rapidly rotates while shooting out laser beams. As it shoots these laser beams, it creates a map of its surroundings that can be accessed on a computer. This intelligence allows the robot to move around obstacles in hospitals, help with the doctor's rounds, and collect data from patients.

The robots can take your temperature from a six-foot distance, ask a series of questions, and fill out patient forms for screening purposes. It enables doctors to remotely check on their patients without having to go through the hassle of putting on PPE kits. Another important function these robots execute is connecting the patients to their families. 

Hospitals and family members of COVID-19 infected patients often do not get to see their loved ones or attend their funerals. The robot connects the family members to the patients, which does wonders for their mental health.

how robots are helping in the battle against covid 19

They have also launched an advanced medical assistant robot that is fitted with devices like a stethoscope to take a patient’s vitals, which is said to reduce the time taken by a doctor to diagnose a patient by 30 percent. "Initially, we started using the Mitra robots to screen patients at the entrance of the hospital. 

Then, we began using them to help patients that we suspected might have COVID, with virtual consultations. We would administer the treatment then and there, or send the patient for COVID testing. Now, we are also using robots for medicine and food delivery to patients. We faced a hurdle there because the robot couldn't open the doors. Invento Robotics came up with an automatic door opener. 

Now, we're working on UV sterilization in the hospital so that we don't expose our housekeeping staff to the virus," says Dr. Sunay Mahesh, senior resident, and member secretary of Fortis Hospital Ltd, Institutional Ethics Committee.

However, hospitals state that they would like Invento Robotics to speed up the robots' interaction and conversation capabilities considering the avalanche of patients in the wards, and help them map out the areas better so they can move around better. 

robots helping in covid 19

As robots are naturally an expensive investment, the company started their ‘Robot As A Service’ program, where they lease out the robots to the hospitals monthly for a price between Rs 35,000 to Rs 60,000.

"Initially, any technology will be expensive, because our suppliers are working in small cycles and so are we. We're making about 10 robots a month, but when we move to about 10,000 robots a month, all the costs will come down drastically. As the technology improves, the affordability will keep going up," says Vishwanathan.

He goes on to add that globally, there are about 200 crore senior citizens as compared to only two crore nurses. How does one manage their healthcare then? That's where, Vishwanathan believes, Mitra robots can come in.

robots that help with covid 19

Even though each robot requires around 200 components from over 20 suppliers and costs between Rs 8-10 lakh, Invento Robotics has seen a six-time increase in bookings compared to last year. With the health tech market in India prised to touch $21 billion by 2025 according to a DataLabs by Inc42+ report, Invento might just be on the right track.

This is what they mean when they say thank God for technology.

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