Robot Makes Rounds for Nurses at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest Fort Worth
07/28/2011

FORT WORTH, Texas — Robots have assisted doctors in the operating room for years, and now they’re making their way onto patient floors to help make nurses’ jobs easier. A new robot at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest Fort Worth is navigating through hallways, opening doors and even riding in an elevator to deliver medication, meals and equipment for patients.

The robot, which uses infrared “light whiskers” as electronic bumpers to avoid running into obstacles and humans, travels down an employee service elevator to the pharmacy and cafeteria for automated pickup and delivery tasks that previously pulled nurses away from patient care.

“Nurses often spend time looking for medication and supplies, or for someone who can deliver these items from their department,” said Gretchen Hunt, director of the intensive care unit, progressive care unit and medical/surgical unit. “Now the support staff can stay in their department and load carts while the robot does an automated delivery. Nurses are able to spend more time at the bedside, which improves the satisfaction of both staff and patients.”

The robot stays on its path with the help of an onboard computer containing the TUG Operating System (TUGOS™), which uses a detailed map of the hospital and sophisticated navigation software to plan routes and constantly track location. Carts containing medication or high-dollar supplies have lock systems for security while the robot is en route. Once it reaches the progressive care unit, a designated “concierge” nurse unloads its contents.

According to its vendor, Aethon, one TUG robot working two shifts a day, seven days a week, does the equivalent labor of 2.8 full time employees, but costs less than one full-time employee.

“We’re testing this program for a trial period with the anticipation that it will increase efficiency on the unit,” said Mary Robinson, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services. “More importantly, we hope it will relieve a burden on our nurses so they can spend more time at the patient’s bedside providing nursing care.”

About Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest Fort Worth
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest Fort Worth is a 230-bed acute care, full-service facility that has provided quality and compassionate care to the residents of southwest Tarrant County for more than two decades. The hospital’s services include surgical and imaging services, a 24-hour emergency department, orthopedics and sports therapy, adult critical care, and a Level III neonatal intensive care unit. An affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, Texas Health Southwest has 992 employees, 120 volunteers, and 578 members on the medical staff. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org/SouthwestFW.

About Texas Health Resources
Texas Health Resources is one of the largest faith-based, nonprofit health systems in the United States. The health system includes 24 acute care and short-stay hospitals that are owned, operated, joint-ventured or affiliated with Texas Health Resources. It includes the Texas Health Presbyterian, Texas Health Arlington Memorial and Texas Health Harris Methodist hospitals, a large physician group, outpatient facilities, and home health, preventive and fitness services, and an organization for medical research and education.

For more information about Texas Health Resources, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org.