Toronto’s newest hospital employs 10 robots for moving food, supplies, and equipment

The 1.8 million-sf Humber River Hospital is loaded with high-tech gadgets. Its coolest innovation is the use of automated guided vehicles.

January 04, 2016 |
Toronto’s newest hospital employs 10 robots for moving food, supplies, and equipment

Photo courtesy Humber River Hospital

Forget autonomous cars. How about self-guided robots in hospitals? It’s reality, at least for one healthcare institution: Humber River Hospital in northwest Toronto.

The new 1.8 million-sf hospital, which opened in October 2015, is loaded with high-tech gadgets—smart bed technology, robotics for surgical procedures, automated laboratory processing, bedside computer screens—to enhance patient care delivery and improve efficiency, accuracy, reliability, and safety.

Its coolest innovation is the use of automated guided vehicles (AGV) to distribute a host of items throughout the 13-story facility, including medical equipment, linens, and food. The hospital’s 10 AGVs move at the speed of an average person walking, and are programmed to call elevators, open doors, pick up loaded carts, and determine the best timing of each delivery based on their location, the priority level of the call, and the time of day. The robots use 238 custom-built carts to carry food and supplies throughout the hospital.

What happens when patients or staff members come into contact with an AGV? Just like in the movies, they are programmed to assimilate. The vehicles stop for people crossing in front of them. If a path is blocked, they will politely ask people to move (yes, they can speak) or send an alert to logistics to have someone clear the path. Digital signage notifies staff when an AGV is approaching in an adjacent hallway.

On the Building Team: Plenary Health and HCP Social Infrastructure (developers), HDR (architect, healthcare consultant), Johnson Controls (facilities management), and PCL (GC).

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