GE to Develop Robotic-Enabled Intelligent System Which Could Save Patients Lives and Hospitals Millions

  GE to Develop Robotic-Enabled Intelligent System Which Could Save Patients
  Lives and Hospitals Millions

  *System solution to include robotic systems, RFID, and computer vision
    technology to handle surgical tool packaging, delivery, and sterilization
  *System could help reduce the billions of extra dollars in inventory in the
    perioperative supply chain that hospitals hold globally
  *Greater use of automation would free-up hospital personnel for more
    patient- focused tasks

Business Wire

NISKAYUNA, N.Y. -- January 30, 2013

Imagine an intelligent system managing the surgical tool sterilization process
in a hospital – ensuring safe delivery of care, enabling new levels of
hospital efficiency, and delivering with surgical accuracy all of the medical
devices doctors  need to perform life-saving procedures. At GE Global
Research, the technology development arm for the General Electric Company
(NYSE: GE), scientists envision such a future and will soon begin a
groundbreaking project designed to leverage the power of the Industrial
Internet to transform the way hospitals manage and track their thousands of
surgical tools.

Pictured is one robotic arm that GE researchers plan to use as part of a
robotic automation system f ...

Pictured is one robotic arm that GE researchers plan to use as part of a
robotic automation system for hospital sterile processing. This arm would be
capable of picking up, placing, organizing, and accounting for the medical
implements that go into surgical toolkits. (Photo: Business Wire)

Working with GE Healthcare and the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA),
Global Research scientists will develop a prototype system capable of
locating, sorting, delivering, and sterilizing surgical tools with little
oversight. A mash up of technology, including robotic systems, RFID, and
computer vision will form the backbone of the automated system. Tools such as
clamps and scalpels will be provided a unique ID so that they are readily
identifiable by various robotic components. The prototype system will perform
various tasks, including kitting of surgical tools, movement throughout the
sterilization process, and transport to and from the operating theater
ensuring the correct tools are in the right place, at the right time, and in
sterile and working order. Click HERE to see a video which further outlines
the project and shows a few of the robots GE is considering using.

“The technologies we’re investigating have been used to automate manufacturing
processes in industrial settings for years, and we believe they, in
combination with a new level of intelligence, can have a substantial impact in
hospitals,” said Lynn DeRose, Principal Investigator and Auto-ID technology
expert in the Distributed Intelligent Systems Lab at GE Global Research. “At
GE, we’re uniquely positioned to construct a smart solution that can make
operating rooms run more efficiently, save millions of dollars in healthcare
costs and lead to better patient outcomes.”

In most hospitals today, tools are inspected, washed, and counted multiple
times by hand. This process is inefficient, fraught with errors, and could
lead to critical delays, and more importantly, adverse patient events.
According to the Institute of Medicine, between 44,000 and 98,000 patients die
every year due to preventable medical errors accounting for a $12-$25 billion
cost to the U.S. healthcare system. Automating the device recognition,
delivery, and accounting processes is expected to significantly reduce
hospital costs.

Expected benefits include:

  *Increased patient safety, hospital quality and cost performance through
    reduction in surgical infections
  *Increased efficiency in OR scheduling due to increased kit accuracy and
    reduction in instrument count time
  *Increased hospital throughput from reduction of set-up and room turnaround

Having an intelligent automated solution handle the labor-intensive asset
management tasks has the added benefit of freeing-up hospital personnel, who
are in many cases already stretched thin. Staff could be retrained and
re-deployed to perform more patient-focused jobs.

“According to experts in the field, the surgical operation and recovery
setting is considered the fastest growing and most resource intensive section
of the hospital, accounting for approximately 30 - 50% of a hospital’s
budget,” said DeRose. “Simply put, the operating theater is the single largest
contributor to a facility’s bottom line. Any gains in efficiency that lead to
more revenue being generated will be felt in a big way.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge of this project will be to train the robots to
handle and test specific implements. “Even maneuvering something as simple as
a pair of scissors requires lengthy coded instructions for a robot,“ DeRose
went on to say.

Technologies developed through this venture could support existing healthcare
products including GE’s Centricity Perioperative suite and AgileTrac™. All
technologies will be built on a common framework resulting in a system that is
expected to offer greater flexibility, and easier installation and
configuration for different hospital settings. Hospital personnel then will be
able to customize computerized dashboards so that information relevant to
their job is available at their fingertips.

The $2.5M project will span two years. At the conclusion, automated systems
will be tested at a yet-to-be determined VA hospital.

About GE Global Research

GE Global Research is the hub of technology development for all of GE's
businesses. Our scientists and engineers redefine what’s possible, drive
growth for our businesses, and find answers to some of the world’s toughest

We innovate 24 hours a day, with sites in Niskayuna, New York; San Ramon,
California; Bangalore, India; Shanghai, China; Munich, Germany; and Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil.

Visit GE Global Research on the web at Connect with our
technologists at and

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GE Media:
Todd Alhart, 518-387-7914
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