By Clay Dillow Posted 01.31.2013
GE Wants To Build An Intelligent Robot For OR Prep GE
It may not seem like it, but a huge portion of a hospital’s budget can get swallowed up by its surgical theaters--not in the operations themselves even, but in the prep and recovery of sterile operating environments. And, of course, in costs attributed to mistakes or oversights in the sterilization and prep of those operating environments (infections acquired during surgery reportedly kill tens of thousands of Americans needlessly each year). So GE Global Research is developing a robot that can sort, sterilize, and prep surgical tools automatically, minimizing mistakes and freeing skilled hospital personnel for other less-tedious jobs.
Prepping instruments for surgery might sound like an afterthought compared to surgery itself, but it is critical to any operation. Errors can lead to delays during surgery and potential patient harm, and improper sterilization--well, improper sterilization can cost lives (as well as lots and lots of money in unnecessary patient recovery time caused by infections that could’ve been prevented). As such, highly-trained surgical staff are generally in charge of inspecting, cleaning, and counting surgical tools by hand, a time-consuming chore that is inefficient (it can slow down the operating schedule) and susceptible to human error.
GE’s solution: an “intelligent” robot that can do all of this faster, more efficiently, and more thoroughly than humans. Leveraging its know-how in manufacturing robotics, GE hopes to augment future ORs with robots that can rapidly turn