HOSPI-R drug delivery robot frees nurses to do more important work


October 28, 2013

Panasonic has launched the HOSPI-R, an autonomous delivery robot, for use in Japanese hospitals

Panasonic has launched the HOSPI-R, an autonomous delivery robot, for use in Japanese hospitals

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Panasonic's ongoing effort to automate Japanese hospitals continued this month with the launch of the HOSPI-R, an autonomous delivery robot that is now on sale. In its press release, Panasonic contends that robots like this one are needed to maintain and improve the quality of nursing services due to Japan's rapidly aging society. The latest in the company's line of HOSPI robots is designed to transport samples and drugs so that lab technicians and nurses won't have to.

Panasonic has been working on this particular problem for the past few years. In early 2010, nurses and pharmacists complained that their work was being constantly interrupted whenever drugs had to be delivered. Beginning with just two robots to help out during the night shift, soon the robots were working 24/7. Finally, after more than two years of experimental use at the Matsushita Memorial Hospital, the robots are ready to go pro.

The main benefit of the HOSPI-R is its autonomous navigation capabilities. Whereas many automation systems rely on obtrusive rail systems or other delineated routes, the HOSPI-R navigates using just its onboard sensors. When compared with conventional rail systems, Panasonic's system implementation costs reduce to between 25 and 50 percent (and maintenance costs are reduced to 20 percent).

A map of the building is programmed in advance, which it uses to plan its route. If the route changes because an extension is built onto existing facilities, the system is flexible enough to handle it, and the robot can even take the elevators automatically. If, along the way, it encounters obstacles during its trip, such as a person in a wheelchair, the robot automatically adjusts its route using its sensors.

As you might expect, the HOSPI-R also has some security features to prevent tampering, damage, and theft of the drugs and samples it is tasked with delivering. An automatically locking door on its storage container opens with ID cards, and liquids (such as chemical or urine samples) are kept in a stable position to limit foaming. The robot's gradual acceleration and deceleration also helps to ensure a smooth trip from start to finish.

The robot can carry up to 20 kg (44 lb), and moves at a maximum speed of 1 meter per second (2.2 mph). It can work up to seven hours before needing to be recharged, which takes about eight hours, so a team of robots on rotation can work 24 hours a day. Panasonic did not reveal specific pricing, as that will vary depending on the needs of each facility.

Panasonic was at IREX 2013 (as was our own Mike Hanlon) to demonstrate the HOSPI-R and some of its other medical robots, among them a robotic hospital bed which can transform into an electric wheelchair when needed. It's one of many technologies designed to move bedridden patients more safely, thereby preventing common injuries to both patients and caregivers.

Also at the show was the HOSPI-Rimo, a telepresence robot that is functionally similar to the iRobot Ava 500. It features a larger display than the standard HOSPI robots to facilitate video chats between doctors and patients. Besides these, Panasonic is also developing a number of other devices, including a hair washing machine with robotic fingers for massaging the scalp.

Check out the photo gallery for a closer look at the robots on display at Panasonic's booth.

Source: Panasonic

About the Author
Jason Falconer Jason is a freelance writer based in central Canada with a background in computer graphics. He has written about hundreds of humanoid robots on his website Plastic Pals and is an avid gamer with an unsightly collection of retro consoles, cartridges, and controllers. All articles by Jason Falconer

Aside from the loss of one chance of catching a dosing mistake it looks good.


I spent 4 weeks in hospital recently (UK). My drugs were wrong (too many, too few, wrong type!) about half a dozen times. So the current human system is probably more prone to dosing errors that this robot. But the accuracy will still be flawed by whoever loads the robot up in the first place. A typical drug round can take two hours on a ward, and there are approx 4 rounds a day. So it's potentially a whole extra nurse being saved by this robot.


In the hospital I have had experience at, different meds are sent by different systems. Pre-existing prescriptions are prepared for the patient's department (common ones are bagged by a robot and humans do those which the robot isn't stocked with) the department receives the envelopes at a specific time of day like a courier service so in between bagging and up bagging, there really isn't an opportunity for checking doses and if there is a mix up it would occur before or after this step. That means this type of delivery is perfect for robots.

STAT scripts are sent by person (and calls to departments make sure the delivery occurred). The runner may be a part-time entry level worker so they aren't going to catch an error anyway.

The other main form of drug delivery is restocking supply cabinets. The cabinets (shelves for low-risk but high risk drugs) would be checked at one point in a day or week and resupplies would be gathered and delivered, including special orders. Narcotics and such had a department employee log in to the computer inventory to sign off on deliveries.

The short version of what I am trying to say is that it sounds like the robots are designed to do the part of the job that doesn't actually have an opportunity to be messed up (short of dumping everything in the trash and running out the door) and in which there would not be an opportunity to catch an error if it were being done by a pharmacy tech anyway.

The main source of error is overworking humans by increasing work loads to save money without increasing their productivity. When mistakes happen, politics kicks in, more funds for more people are released but they are not used to increase productivity, efficiency and accuracy so next time the budget comes up for review the extra employees are reduced, workloads increase again mistakes happen and the cycle repeats.

Snake Oil Baron

I hope programmers of these are not working on the new affordable healthcare page.

Layne Nelson
As an engineer I would say that I have a slightly different view on what art is. Though previously a major in the arts I decided to diverge more into applied aesthetics. When mentioning to others that I want to go into manufacturing engineering it is often imagined as a rusty factory, grumpy faces, with weird smells and toxins flowing through the airways. But me, I see it as a system with so many pathways that can be taken. Last year, while visiting one of these factories on a tour, I quickly fell in love, as weird as that sounds, with a robot. The ways in which it moves, and the ways in which it was able to help were just something so beautiful to me, and it was then that I realized the beauty in robotics. While doing much research in robotics I found so many articles on how they have been used in the medical field (where I hope to end up someday). Robots that help deliver materials, make materials, and compute data, and even things like this that are able to possibly even lift a patient's spirits; it even touches the Wall-E lover inside of me and through things like Wall-E I find my inspiration to use engineering, but also this art to hopefully make the world a better place some day. Things like this show me the endless possibilities of where robotics can fit and help, and if engineered properly I think it's a really viable opportunity that we should embrace. aubreyjd
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