TUG Robots improve patient, employee experience - VA North Texas Health Care System
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TUG Robots improve patient, employee experience

Tug robots

A Dallas VAMC Tug Robot proceeds to its assigned hospital route following a visit to the charging station. Each TUG Robot can perform up to 10 hours between charging sessions.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

It is not unusual to find yourself sharing a hallway of the Dallas VA Medical Center with a wide assortment of Veterans from all eras of service, their families, staff members, and robots.

Yes, robots--silver clad mobile delivery systems bringing meal trays to in-patient units, known simply as TUG.

Dallas VA Medical Center is home to 35 TUG autonomous delivery robots that enhance hospital automation and improve the delivery and retrieval process across all major facility functions. Dallas VA moves an immense amount of materials through hallways and elevators to patient units, requiring a complex internal logistics plan that can have implications on key tenants like cost, quality and safety. TUG robots automate the delivery of these materials and free clinical and service employees to focus on patient care.

TUGs improve patient and employee satisfaction in Dallas by improving processes essential to proper care and treatment.

“TUGs have made cart transport much safer for our employees,” said Traci Steinert, Chief of Nutrition and Food Service. “We can provide better, timely customer service during meals to our Veterans as employees are not spending time walking back and forth from the kitchen with the carts.”

The TUG uses smart autonomous navigation that utilizes a map of the hospital translated into a facility layout programmed with routes including use of elevators, auto-opening doors, delivery points and charging stations. TUG uses the on-board map for guidance and calculates its location in real time through an algorithm. It uses its on-board sensors to adjust changing hallways in real time to safely navigate around people and obstacles while always staying on track with its built-in map. TUG is self-charging and upon completing a task delivery it returns to the charging dock. This charging allows TUGs to run 10 hours or more at a time.

“Long-term plans include using TUGs to deliver medications within the facility,” said Steinert. “We are also working with Logistics and Environmental Management Service on how TUGs can be applied to their daily operations.”

VA North Texas Health Care System is committed to realizing efficiencies and enhancing the patient and employee experience, even if that means adding one, or 35, four-foot-tall robots, to the team.

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