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October 27, 2015

The first 'fully digital hospital' in North America is now open

Daily Briefing

Toronto-based Humber River Hospital is touting itself as North America's first "fully digital" hospital.

The 656-bed, $1.7 billion facility, which opened this month, has more than 700 human employees—who work alongside several different automated robots that help complete daily tasks.

Robots' tasks

Some robots are tasked with moving medical supplies and food to patients across the 13-floor, 1.8 million square foot complex. When designing a facility of that size, "you need to start looking for ways to do that other than people pushing carts of supplies," CEO Barb Collins told CTV News.

The robots are able to pick up supply carts, call an elevator, and deliver supplies.

Humber River also has robots that help deliver chemotherapy drugs. Once a physician enters an order into a patient's chart, a robot will check the dosage and the patient's weight, and then mixes the medication if everything checks out.

The robot then inserts the medication into a medical bag with a barcode, which hospital staff then checks against the barcode on the intended patient's wristband prior to administering the drugs.

Collins says that one of the benefits of the system is that chemotherapy medications can be "quite toxic" and having them mixed by robots helps guard against spills.

Meanwhile, the hospital also has three robots in its radiology department that can move around patients at various angles, preventing patients from needing to move as they often must during traditional scans.

At the same time, staff will be tasked with ensuring that all the robots are operating as intended. "Robots are robots, but they still need monitoring," Collins notes.

Other amenities

Humber River also has machines that process blood samples within minutes and automatically log the results in patients' electronic health records (EHRs), as well as wristbands for patients under walking restrictions that alert employees when patients wander.

In addition, the hospital beds are equipped with touchpad screens that allow patients to:

  • Adjust the room temperature;
  • View their EHRs;
  • Make phone calls;
  • Video chat with medical staff or with family members;
  • Listen to the radio;
  • Watch television;
  • Play video games;
  • Order food;
  • Read books or have the books read aloud; and
  • Page nurses.

Collins says of the hospital's technology, "I never could have dreamed of it 40 years ago when I got into nursing" (Muoio, Tech Insider, 10/25; Mangione, CTV News, 9/30; Marie Doctor, Tech Times, 10/20; Deschamps, "GTA," The Star, 10/16).

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