New Stanford Hospital will be staffed by a fleet of supply-delivering, pill-counting robots

The new Stanford (Calif.) Hospital, scheduled to open Nov. 17, will by staffed not only by 5,500 human Stanford Health Care employees, but also by about two dozen robots in charge of performing repetitive, mechanical tasks across the facility.

Twenty-three of the robots will travel on pre-programmed routes throughout the hospital and, via tunnel, between the hospital and its nearby loading dock to deliver linens, packages and medical supplies, according to a Stanford Medicine news release. Three more robots will keep track of Stanford's medication inventory and count out and package pills.

"The real value of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians comes when they use their clinical knowledge to care for patients, not to count pills," Gary Fritz, vice president and chief of applications for Stanford Health Care, said in the release. "Similarly, in the supply chain, routine activities like pushing a cart 30 minutes in each direction isn't really job-enriching, but what is enriching is if those people can talk to patients or spend time figuring out how to get better supplies."

The 4-foot-tall TUG robots use lasers and GPS technology to survey their surroundings and locate obstacles or wirelessly open doors. The resulting 3D map is also converted to a 2D image that hospital staff can use to remotely track the TUGs in real time.

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