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What is TUG?

The Tug, manufactured by Atheon, is a robot that automatically transports and delivers medical supplies in a hospital. About the size of a post-box, the TUG robot’s star-feature is the capability to navigate the hospital floors by itself. So it can be of great help to the hospital with food delivery, waste disposal and delivery of medication. It also responds to calls for pickups or deliveries from hospital staff.  It also notifies staff when it arrives with the supplies.

TUG Robot in Action

Why is it needed?

The TUG robot has been introduced in hospitals to do tasks that are dangerous or tedious for humans to do, like disposing bio-waste. There were high turnover rates for employees who used to do these jobs, and the TUG has shown considerable cost-savings in this department – even though it costs between $75,000 and $140,000.

Also, medication delivery is a time-sensitive task, and it can be delayed by lost orders, illegible physician orders, high workloads or misplaced medications. The TUG addresses all these concerns by automating the process of delivery to provide a consistent service.

How does it function?

The TUG is motorised, autonomous and can pull loads of 250 Kgs. It has sensors that use sonar, infrared and laser tech to navigate the hospital and avoid bumping into people or objects. These sensors continuously measure distance from its surroundings, and keep it on the right course. If the TUG comes across an unpassable obstacle, it calculates a new path to go around it.  It has a map of the hospital in its system, and the navigation software lets it move from one destination to another. It can even access elevators and open doors, all wirelessly. Here’s a video of the TUG entering an elevator.

And it has a voice! – it politely asks for removal of obstructions and lets staff know when it arrives at its destination.

The TUG is attached to a secure cart, which can carry any medical supply. The cabinet on the TUG requires thumbprint identification and a pincode for access, because it carries expensive and sensitive payloads.

It’s also fairly easy to use, and requires minimum training. The staff just need to load the cabinets and press go – the TUG does the rest.  After completing the delivery, it returns to its docking station to automatically charge itself.

How has it helped?

The TUG has increased efficiency by reducing cycle time by 20-30 minutes for most medications. Hospital staff have expressed increased satisfaction with the efficiency of services, and prefer TUG delivery over human delivery.