UV-C Robots: Fully Functional or a Passing Fad?

UV-C Robots: Fully Functional or a Passing Fad?

In the realm of infection control, much has been made of the UV-C robots coming to market and their potential for enabling the reduction of disinfection time and FTE technician workload. But do they live up to their claims, much less their hype? Recent studies raise questions and concerns that reveal operational limitations which cast doubt on their accuracy, efficacy, and efficiency.

Trading Off Your Staff’s Time

One key selling point of autonomous robots is time savings. However, battery charging time and battery run time are actually shortcomings to the operation that potentially impacts the ability to quickly respond to a pathogen outbreak situation. Battery power requires an FTE to be engaged in charging and/or swapping out batteries –time consuming activities that inhibit completion of disinfection procedures, creating potentially serious operational inefficiencies.

Consequently, battery power output, life, and maintenance are all negative factors impacting the viability of autonomous robot systems. While manufacturers of the more expensive autonomous robot units use the reduction of FTE time commitment as an argument to offset their significantly higher cost, the time spent charging or trading out a depleted battery is at actually at the expense of staff time, room turnaround time, and timely patient care.

Real FTE Operating Inefficiencies

However, FTE time-savings shortcomings are further impacted by programming and operating complexity of autonomous robot systems.

The process of mapping the autonomous robot’s path through an area is time consuming and can only be done for one floor per robot. This necessitates a dedicated robot for each floor of a facility and triggers additional purchase expense and operating costs. There are also reports of difficulty with programming of robots, including non-intuitive user interface – control panels that are not self-explanatory, and the required use of multiple third-party apps to complete the process.

Another shortcoming is that, once programmed and operating, a robot will abort its programmed route if it detects the presence of an unforeseen item such as a chair in its path, or movement within the space. When this occurs, it requires the technical operator to intervene to correct the problem during the disinfection procedure, costing precious time and potentially causing recontamination of the space.

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