Robots put on scrubs and help out at Danish hospitals

Sterile equipment and waste are transported around hospitals and nursing homes by small mobile robots, giving more time for patients and lower costs.

Robots put on scrubs and help out at Danish hospitals
Photo: MiR

Small mobile robots from companies such as Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) cover up to 15 kilometres each day transporting equipment, food, bed linens or other necessities at hospitals in Denmark, writes

“MiR robots can take the lift, drive down corridors alongside staff and patients, avoid obstacles and open doors on their own,” the company’s CEO Thomas Visti said.

At Zealand University Hospital, staff members at the Sterile Centre load single-use equipment and sterile instruments onto carts that are subsequently transported to the hospital by robots from MiR. 

“We free up staff resources used on transport and precious square metres on storage,” the hospital’s operations manager Johnny Petersen said.

Automatization of workflows at hospitals pays for itself in four to six years, according to Thomas Strecker Leitner, market director for hospital logistics in Scandinavia at consultancy firm Rambøll, who noted previous experience in Germany and Austria.

“The cost of healthcare in Denmark is among the highest in the world, so it makes sense to save resources while also increasing quality in the final steps of the pathway to the patient by using mobile robots instead of staff having to walk back and forth to retrieve everything from depots,” Leitner said.

At Engparken nursing home in the municipality of Ikast-Brande, MiR robot Roberta helps staff conserve time and energy and avoid heavy lifting by removing waste.

Social care worker Dorthe Marinussen said that before the nursing home acquired the robot, having to leave a ward to remove waste could be problematic.

“There are quite a few dementia patients here who can grow anxious and create conflict. Now I can be present in the ward all the time, because the robot automatically removes waste,” Marinussen said.

In total, Roberta saves staff 48 minutes of waste management in the course of a shift at Engparken nursing home.

Danish Service Industries Federation director Jakob Scharff said he was pleased that the technologies have reached a maturity and price level at which it is attractive for companies to invest.

“Service companies are always on the lookout for new ways in which to optimize and improve their service to customers. Robots, automation and new technologies are drivers for development which also improves the ability of staff to complete tasks,” Scharff said.

READ ALSO: Language robots will need to 'get' Danish: regulator

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Emergency room visits to cost 50 francs in Switzerland

People who visit the emergency room for non-urgent treatment will now need to pay 50 francs after the Swiss government issued final approval for a rule change.

An ambulance approaches Geneva University Hospital. Emergency room visits will now cost 50 francs in Switzerland. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
An ambulance approaches Geneva University Hospital. Emergency room visits will now cost 50 francs in Switzerland. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The proposal was originally developed by Zurich National Council member Thomas Weibel and received approval by the National Council in 2019. 

The Council of States on Wednesday accepted the parliamentary initiative, meaning that people who seek treatment in the emergency room for non-urgent health issues a fee of 50 francs. 

This will be introduced as a co-pay, meaning that the patients would have to pay out of their own pockets (i.e. it will not be covered by insurance). 

READ MORE: Switzerland to introduce 50 franc fee for emergency room visits

MPs argued that this measure may dissuade those who are not seriously ill from going to the emergency room and overloading the system, while also taking medical staff away from patients who need urgent help.

Opponents countered that this may discourage people from visiting hospital who actually need treatment, however the measure passed with a narrow majority. 

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about health insurance in Switzerland

No concrete indications were given as to what amounts to ’non-urgent’ treatment in the eyes of the law.

This is expected to be laid out by the National Council who are now charged with the responsibility of drafting the rules. 

Exemptions could apply to children and adolescents under the age of 16, patients referred to the emergency room by a doctor, and those whose treatment subsequently requires hospitalisation.