Delivery robot helps curb impact of staffing shortage in Carmel hospital


By Samantha Kupiainen

IU Health North in Carmel and IU Health Tipton welcomed two new workers last fall — IU-D2 and WALDO, or Wonderful Assistant for Labs, Drugs and Other stuff, respectively. Both are delivery robots that are part of a pilot program at the hospitals to combat staffing shortages, specifically nurses and pharmacy technicians.

The robots make deliveries throughout the hospital, such as samples to the lab or medications to hospital units. The end-goal of the pilot program is to reduce the time team members spend delivering items between units.

“Part of this is to look and see how we can support our team,” said Janice Vadas, director of allied health at IU Health North. “This isn’t meant to replace any team member or anything like that. With everybody being so short staffed, how can we help them do their jobs to the best of their ability?”

The idea for the delivery robot pilot program came about during a meeting to discuss how to address staffing shortages.

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“Somebody in the room jokingly said, ‘We need a robot,’ and then I happened to remember that years ago I had seen a delivery robot demonstrated on one of my trips,” Vada said.

Staffers operate the robots through a portal, which allows them to set pick up and drop off locations around the hospital. Both delivery robots can even take the elevator without assistance thanks to the routes being mapped ahead of time, elevators included.

“It gets on the elevators, it calls them wirelessly,” Vadas said. “When it gets on the elevators, it pushes the button wirelessly. It’ll go up to whatever floor it needs to. It can tell where it’s at on the elevator, not only by WiFi, but also barometric pressure. A lot of times you lose WiFi, so that’s its backup. And then when it gets to wherever it’s dropping it off, it calls that department, and then they can use their badge to get the item.”

Other IU Health hospitals have expressed interest in getting a delivery robot for their facility, too. Many have started to look at what they might need for their infrastructure, like getting the doors and elevators ready.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Vadas said. “I know at Tipton, when you have a department that might only have one or two people in it, not having to leave that unit, it’s been huge and they’re able to stay on task.”

IU Health Tipton will keep its delivery robot through the end of the year, while IU Health North is exploring the option of extending its program once it ends this month.