Assistive/Autonomous Hospital Beds

The World Health Organization (WHO) predicted that by 2030, there will be an 18 million healthcare worker shortage globally. This demographic shift and potential serious nursing shortages underline the need for devising solutions for enhancing health- and long-term-care mobility systems that can perform some basic nursing duties. This project addresses the compelling demand for assistance in healthcare by integrating autonomous technology for indoor mobility, aiming to perform fundamental tasks including patient and supply transportation within healthcare facilities. This automation will lessen the manual workloads for nurses and staff, allowing them to focus more on patient care. The proposed innovation promises enhanced operational efficiency, reduced costs, and improved patient outcomes, offering substantial advancements in healthcare mobility.

Autonomous Hospital Bed

The common medical equipment such as medication cart, medical bed, and laundry cart usually equips with the full steering caster wheels. This is because this equipment sometime needs to operate in a narrow space, and the ability to perform omnidirectional maneuver such as crab motion will be significantly beneficial. To ensure the proposed indoor vehicle can perform omnidirectional maneuver, the design features two driving modules: one attaches to the front and the other attaches to the rear. Each module is equipped with a centrally located motorized wheel, flanked by two caster wheels on either side for balance purposes. Each motorized wheel can generate an independent driving force and steering motion, enabling omnidirectional movement. The two driving modules then can be installed to any medical equipment that requires mobility needs. A prototype of the proposed indoor vehicle can be found in the figure below.

Prototype 3D view of the device

The proposed approach includes the following primary components: a global planning module and an integrated local motion planning and tracking controller. The global route planning module processes global perception and location (PL) information as input and identifies the optimal route for the medical bed to reach its intended destination. An integrated local planning and tracking controller focuses on how to generate the optimal control inputs, such as speed and steering angle to allow the medical bed to reach the destination. The algorithm’s goal is to generate optimal motion in real-time, allowing the medical bed to avoid collisions while maintaining minimal deviation from the reference trajectory.

Overview of the proposed approach