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News

New Covid-19 Swab Test Robot Offers Safe, More Comfortable Procedure for Patients

Shabana Begum, The Straits Times
21.9.2020

The machine, which is 35cm by 40cm, and 49cm high, was developed by clinicians from the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and Duke-NUS Medical School , in collaboration with medical robotics company Biobot Surgical.

SINGAPORE - A robot that carries out nasal swabbing to diagnose Covid-19 has been developed by clinicians who say the automated procedure is safe, faster and more comfortable compared with manual swab tests.

Although other countries have developed similar robots, the clinicians said the made-in-Singapore bot is the first that allows patients to fully control the swab process so they are more comfortable. Patients can activate and terminate the machine at will.

A patient is seated in front of the robot, called SwabBot, similar to how he would take a mechanised eye examination. He holds onto the handhold and latches his nostril onto the disposable nosepiece.

After the patient activates the bot by using his chin to push a button, the nosepiece moves slightly upwards to open the nostril. The swab will extend and rotate safely and gently through the patient’s nose to the back of the nasal cavity, which is typically about 10cm from the nostrils.

SwabBot is equipped with a built-in feature that withdraws the swab stick if there is resistance when it is moved deeper into the nasal cavity. If patients feel uncomfortable at any point, they can stop the process by moving their head away from the robot.

The process takes 20 seconds, while a manual swab test can take twice as long.

At the end of the procedure, a medical staff member will open the machine to remove and store the swab stick. The robot, including its interior, will be wiped down and covered with a fresh plastic drape fitted with a nosepiece for the next patient.

The machine, which is 35cm by 40cm, and 49cm high, was developed by clinicians from the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and Duke-NUS Medical School , in collaboration with medical robotics company Biobot Surgical.

The team said the robot can address the limitations and risks of manual swabbing. It reduces swabbers' risk of exposure to the virus and the need for training people, standardises the consistency of swabs taken, and increases the efficiency of conducting swab tests.

"Our team felt that we had to find a better way to swab patients to reduce the risk of exposure of Covid-19 to our healthcare workers, especially when patients sneeze or cough during the swabbing process," said principal investigator Rena Dharmawan, associate consultant of head and neck surgery at NCCS' Division of Surgery and Surgical Oncology.

Read the full story on The Straits Times

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