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Singapore coronavirus patients to have their meals, medicine delivered by robot

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Patients at a Singapore hospital suspected or confirmed to be infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus will soon get their meals and medicines from a robot. What’s more,  a second robot is being deployed to clean, and will chat with patients in four languages, as well as “Singlish.”

Details of the use of the robot technology were outlined in Singapore’s  Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Committee of Supply debate today. By the end of March, a robot called BeamPro will make its rounds in the hospital’s two isolation wards, a hospital spokesperson said yesterday.

Singapore’s Alexandra Hospital currently has only one confirmed case of Covid-19, which the MOH identified as Case 74, who remains in stable condition after being admitted on February 15. Another 14 suspected cases are in isolation, a hospital spokesperson told a media briefing on yesterday.

BeamPro was housed at the hospital’s Centre for Innovation in Healthcare for more than three months before the coronavirus outbreak, but trials began just two weeks ago. BeamPro makes it possible for patients to be inspected remotely while remaining isolated. said Dr Alexander Yip, Clinical Director of Health Technology at Alexandra Hospital, told the briefing:

“The Covid-19 situation is an opportunity for us to accelerate healthcare transformation. With Covid-19 there was a great opportunity to launch the telepresence robot.”

“The main aim of this telepresence robot is to reduce the unnecessary risk of exposure to healthcare workers by allowing us to move the robot into the room instead.”

Once the robot enters the room, doctors and nurses are able to see the patient via a camera on the robot. The patient, likewise, will see the healthcare professional controlling the robot’s movements via a large screen on the robot.

“We can use BeamPro to ask very basic, simple questions. We take their history and see what we need to find out. And from there, we make the decision as to whether we need to put on the full PPE and go in to examine the patient further. This is always based on the physician’s best judgment.”

BeamPro can be affixed with trays so that it can deliver medications and food, and will also be used for other contagious infections like chicken pox and measles.

A second robot, LionsBot, is being deployed for sweeping, mopping, vacuuming and scrubbing at the hospital, according to a media release issued by the hospital today.

“LionsBot robots are social minglers that bring joy and delight, to engage, entertain, even exchange a simple conversation, in four languages, as well as Singlish.”

In another innovative use of technology, on Feb 20, the hospital also started vCare, a virtual consultation service, conducting virtual consultations for patients via the Zoom platform.

“When patients who are isolated get discharged we always advise [them] to stay at home. And so this is where we leverage our efforts in telemedicine to be able to communicate with these patients at home, in the safety of their home without bringing them back into the hospital or into the community during this period.”

SOURCE: TODAY

 

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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