When the new Forth Valley Royal Hospital opened its doors, patients and visitors may have been unaware of some rather unusual employees. That’s because the high tech hospital is the first in the UK to employ a fleet of robots to carry out routine deliveries.
The 300m Forth Valley Royal Hospital facility in Larbert, Stirlingshire, is the largest NHS construction project ever built in Scotland and one of the most modern and well-equipped hospitals in Europe. The hospital has 860 inpatient and day beds. It will have the full range of acute hospital services, including a mental health facility and a women and children unit.
The Forth Valley Royal prides itself on its services and facilities which promise to make stays and visits as pleasant and comfortable as possible.
As part of its pursuit of excellence, the Forth Valley Royal Hospital developers required an automated management system that reduced the need for manual processing, reducing paperwork and phone calls. An effective set of facilities management and maintenance processes was absolutely essential to achieve this. The core functions that needed automating included management of portering, estates, catering, security and car parking, maintenance planning, equipment and asset management, and inventory and spare parts administration.
In their business case for the new hospital, the NHS Board set out the need to segregate patient and facilities management activity. The team from international service company Serco won the facilities management contract and listened carefully to their requirements. After extensive research, the team realised that it was time for ‘robotic’ science to arrive in the UK health market.
Operating behind the scenes in specially designed tunnels and lifts, the robots at Forth Valley Royal Hospital were enlisted to help keep patient areas free of trolleys and other clutter, reduce infection risks, and free up support staff to focus on priorities for patients. Their aim was to provide a calmer environment to improve the patient experience.
An effective computerised facilities management helpdesk system was key to supporting the hospital’s services and facilities. When the hospital awarded its Facilities Management contract to Serco, the company selected SSG Insight as its software partner. SSG Insight’s maintenance and facilities management software, Agility, has been implemented as part of the agreement.
SSG Insight was one of the first companies to enter into the Computerised Maintenance and Facilities Management arena and has built up a 34-year track record as specialists in delivering business focused innovation for asset and maintenance management. In addition to managing the workflow for hard and soft services throughout the hospital, the software needed to be integrated with the robotic vehicles to monitor their performance.
Agility is being used to allocate and dispatch porters, take food orders at the bedside, and manage a wide range of services, including reception, estates maintenance, security, and cleaning. The software also monitors the robots, generating performance management statistics as part of an automated system which flags an alert should the robots not deliver on time.
Core functionality of the facilities management software includes maintenance planning, equipment and asset management, and inventory and spare parts administration. Agility also offers helpdesk and work request functionality, which allows people throughout the organisation to log and monitor their maintenance requests. A visual drag and drop scheduler enables effective work order management, employee allocation, and resourcing. The Agility helpdesk screens have been configured to ensure that every job is quickly and efficiently allocated to the correct performance management standard by answering a maximum of five simple questions presented in dropdown lists. Response and rectification times for every job are automatically set using the service level agreement details stored in the system and service managers are presented with a series of dashboard indicators that automatically show the current status of all work using colours, charts, and visual alarms to make sure service commitments are met.
Robin Barter of Serco says, “SSG Insight rapidly understood the extremely complex requirements of the performance management system and the system interface with the robots, and then expertly translated these into comprehensive specifications and, subsequently, a coherent working system.”
David Hipkin, SSG Insight’s Managing Director, said, “When SSG Insight joined the Forth Valley project the hospital robots already existed but how they would interact with the hospital’s bigger management systems was not clear – it was uncharted territory. SSG Insight’s engineers went in and made the technology work within months of the commission – an exceptional achievement in healthcare IT implementation.”
In its first three months, more than 100,000 meals have been ordered and successfully delivered. The next steps for the system will involve the rollout of location-based deployment using an interface with the WIFI system provided by CISCO, which will ensure that porters and maintenance engineers are automatically assigned jobs efficiently according to both their skills and their current location as they move around the hospital using their PDA.
David said, “This cutting-edge project is exciting for lots of reasons, not least because it shows how flexible the Agility solution is. It is a whole new area where the software is not just supporting systems; it is enabling innovation and breaking boundaries.”