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Albany Med Expansion: TUG Robots


These Robots Are On a Vital Mission

Robots are now part of the traffic flow in some halls of Albany Med, bringing blood products along the first floor from the C Building to the operating rooms on the same floor of B Building, the Patient Pavilion.

While they may look curious, and even have names — Rosie, Sonny and WALL-E — they are on vital.

Said Blood Bank Supervisor Carla Chamberlain, “Passersby may have an inclination to stand in front of them to see what happens, but everyone has to remember these robots are on a mission to deliver life-saving blood products in a timely manner.”

Since the early 1970s the hospital Blood Bank has used a dumbwaiter system to transport blood products in chests packed with ice to ORs located a floor below in C Building, a system that continues for surgeries conducted there.  But with the opening of the Patient Pavilion, administrators looked for a new prompt and efficient delivery system for as many as 40 round-trip transports a day. 

Albany Med is the first facility in New York state to deliver blood products using the Aethon TUG robots, which weigh approximately 260 pounds with the cart. 

“This is an innovative way to transport blood and other critical supplies to surgeons quickly,” said Steven Stain, MD, chair of the Department of Surgery.

Albany Med utilizes three TUG robots that can make the trip roughly a football field in length down a back hallway in about 4-and-a-half minutes. (That’s around two miles per hour.) The robots hug the right wall both outbound and inbound.

“The robots have the capability to get around impediments including people, but will automatically stop and contact a help desk if there are problems,” said Lois Archer, associate director of Laboratory Service.