Avera McKennan added two new employees to the hospital's pharmacy staff that will work around the clock without a penny of overtime and they aren't eligible for benefits. That's because they're robots and the real benefit of having them on hand goes directly back to the patients.
The robots are officially called Aethon TUGS and are now officially employed with the Avera McKennan Pharmacy Department. Their job will be delivering medications in locked compartments to the nursing stations throughout the hospital. The reason for the addition is to keep the pharmacy staff where they are most needed and that is in the pharmacy.
Bob Lewis is an Operations Manager with the Avera McKennan Pharmacy Department. He tells us, "The pharmacy staff spends a lot of their time delivering things to the nursing units that is essentially not productive time."
Since this is the TUG's inaugural run at Avera McKennan, Aethon field engineers out of Pittsburgh are on hand to make sure they get all the kinks worked out. That's why TUG is delivering candy instead of capsules. They says it usually takes a month for everyone on staff to get used to having a talking-moving-service elevator riding-file cabinet looking machine roam the halls, but the RN's say they are excited over the aspect and immediacy of having a courier at their beckon call.
Avera McKennan Critical Care Services Director Jill Casanova, RN says, "It will assist the nursing staff in getting us medications in a more timely manner which will allow the pharmacists and pharmacy techs the time they need to be in their department reviewing medications and preparing meds for delivery. "
Unlike humans, the TUG can work 24 shifts, doesn't take a lunch break, doesn't talk to co-workers and only needs 2 hours to recharge its batteries.
Lewis says, "They are not replacing anyone, we just want to make it as efficient as possible. We want to utilize our trained staff to do the things they are trained to do."
The TUG is well programmed with sensors all over it alerting it to people or obstacles in it's path. Avera McKennan administrators hope with the help of TUG they too have eliminated any obstacles allowing staff to reallocate and refocus on what really matters: the patient experience.
More than 100 hospitals throughout the country currently employ Aethon TUGS as delivery tools. They can also be used to deliver meals, mail and supplies if need be.