Trial of medical robots proving successful in Bahrain
A trio of medical robots that have been undergoing trial in a Bahrain COVID-19 isolation unit have been well received by health officials so far, it has been reported.
Earlier this month, the machines comprising three models – the “Robot Net 20”, “Robot Net 21”, and the “Robot Infirmiere Nurse Robot” – were deployed to the Ebrahim Khalil Kanoo Health Centre isolation facility in Manama. The experiment, spearheaded by Bahrain’s Ministry of Health (MoH), is to assess how modern technology can minimise the direct exposure of healthcare workers to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
“During this period, we want to provide the best protection and safety to all healthcare staff and further minimise their exposure by using technology in the national efforts to fight COVID-19,” said Fatima Al Ahmed, assistant undersecretary for resources and services at the MoH. “The future plan is to use robots in providing nursing care that will be a big step to boost health services in the country.”
According to Al Ahmed, the introduction of this type of technology marks a “fundamental change” in the way illnesses will be diagnosed and treated in the country.
Dr Jameela Al Salman, an infectious and internal diseases consultant at the Salmaniya Medical Complex told Gulf Daily News that the use of robots was a “pioneering experiment in Bahrain” and the rest of the GCC.
“These devices will provide more protection to medical personnel and reduce the transmission of disease, as well as protect sanitation workers from constant exposure to chemicals,” she explained. “They will also reduce time and effort needed by medical personnel and this is the first step towards using robots at health centres and it’s a pioneering experiment in Bahrain and the Gulf.”
THE LARGER CONTEXT
The three robots have different tasks, according to MoH medical projects engineer, Ali Al Sabah.
Robot Net 20, which is equipped with facial recognition capabilities, focuses on distributing meals and medication to patients.
“The patient can communicate with the physician through the robot which reduces the risk of transmission to medical personnel by 80 per cent and reduces the cost of sanitising the medical team,” he told Mubasher. “The Robot Net 21 is a disinfection robot that can sanitise [isolation rooms and surrounding facilities] without human interference…. [it] is able to communicate disinfection voice messages in various languages.”
Finally, the Robot Infirmiere Nurse Robot – which is also capable of distributing food and medication – can be equipped with devices, such as ventilators, as well as electrocardiogram (ECG) and blood pressure monitors.
“It also has a thermal camera to transmit the patient’s temperature online and can also be used at reception to prevent any patient with higher temperature from walking in; it gives a warning if the temperature is above 37.3 [Celsius],” he added.
ON THE RECORD
At the time of launch, MoH Undersecretary, Dr Walid Al-Manea elaborated that this was the first time the country was using an artificial intelligence (AI) solution in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have started using the robots in the isolation and treatment facilities as part of the experimental phase to use AI in the health sector,” he said. “It is certainly a new medical revolution and we want to see how this benefits patients and staff.
“This new technology will help doctors and nurses as they can evaluate the effectiveness of the robots and help incorporate them in their daily work.”