Bengaluru-based technology startup Invento Robotics will pilot its new Astra series of robots, meant for the much-sought-after automated screening, diagnosis and disinfection services in COVID isolation wards, in a couple of large hospitals in Bangalore today. If successful, this COVID ward automation technology will make another major breakthrough in the frontline fight against coronavirus pandemic in India. Health risk of the frontline warriors, including doctors, nurses and other hospital staff has been one of the biggest concerns in the fight against coronavirus worldwide. Limited personnel resources and severe shortage of personal protection equipment have already worsened the situation in many hospitals in India already. The situation becomes more critical when there are casualties reported among these already overstretched frontline force. Robots have been successfully used to treat patients in China and the US and have also been used to properly disinfect isolation wards at shorter intervals.
“We have an autonomous robotics technology that carry a payload from either a UVC disinfectant or a diagnostic unit. These robots have better utility, designed for Indian conditions and also far more cost effective than the European alternatives,” said Balaji Viswanathan, CEO, Invento Robotics, in a tele-interview with Future Medicine. “Astra has been successfully tested for this much needed automation and we will run the pilot in a large hospital in Bangalore on Wednesday,” he confirmed.
The C-Astra Robot comes with a range of onboard tools from thermal imaging cameras to sensors for detecting pulse, ECG etc for the doctors to remote diagnose the patients. The robots move through the hospital floors through a proprietary self-driving technology and is constantly monitored and assisted by human pilots from a remote location.
Once near the patient, the robot uses its face recognition technology to identify the patient and starts an automatic conversation through voice. This is used to get routine questions from the patients — including their pain levels. The onboard sensors of the robots are used to identify temperature, pulse level and other vitals. Then the doctor is brought on board through video with all the necessary information in the screen in front of her. The doctor can then consult the patient over video and in future also perform remote auscultation using an onboard digital stethoscope.
“Our key innovation is in making this mobile with a state of the art LIDAR based SLAM technology that allows operation without exposing the workers to either the harmful UV light or infected rooms of patients. The mobility allows disinfection of various corners and narrow alleys,” said Viswanathan.
While the first payload here is UV-C disinfection, the other major payload helps the doctors and nurses who are one of the biggest victims of COVID-19. Their exposure even with PPEs are quite high leading to a much higher viral load and a faster death. Dozens of doctors and hundreds of nurses died fighting the pandemic in China and Italy. Added to the safety concern is the issue of huge scarcity of them in the worst hit places. We want to reduce doctor’s exposure and time through robots that carries a range of diagnostic tools through the isolation wards.As we face such large healthcare crisis caused by COVID-19, there is a massive need to bring in automation to help diagnose and disinfect faster, says Viswanathan.