GE Plans to Develop RFID-Guided Robots for Surgical Tools Instrument
Scientists at GE Global Research are working with the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) to develop a robotic system to manage the transporting, cleaning and storage of surgical tools at VA hospitals, using RFID to help automate the process.
The solution is expected to include several forms of robotics designed to move tools through the sterilization process, as well as to and from operating rooms. RFID is expected to be used to ensure that proper tools are in the correct kits at various points throughout the sterilization processes, as well as to create a record of the processes completed on those tools.
A robotic device on wheels could first pick up a kit filled with soiled tools post-surgery, and later return the kit and tools to the dirty side of the sterile processing center. GE plans to test a variety of scenarios, including a robot using RFID for path planning with a built-in reader and tags deployed around a facility to help guide its movements.
While the solution is intended to reduce infection rates, many more benefits have been identified, including an improvement in the efficiency of surgery and scheduling, since kit accuracy is higher and instrument-counting time is lower. Moreover, the system could reduce setup and room turnaround times, as well as optimize inventory accuracy.
All details are still open for consideration. Once the prototype is completed in 2014, it will be demonstrated at a VA hospital for three months, in order to obtain feedback from a variety of VA hospitals and personnel.