Domo Arigato, Nurse Roboto

We talk about “seeing the doctor.” But it’s really the nurse we spend most of our face-to-face health care time with. These are the unsung heroes most likely to greet you, take your vitals, listen to your medical complaints and ask all of those embarrassing questions. Compare that with a study indicating that 64% of primary doctors and 80% of specialists didn’t even ask their patients the purpose of their visits.  

Nurses not only spend more time with patients, but surveyed members of the American Nurses Association reported that they also worked longer than scheduled almost every day. Most respondents worked more than 40 hours a week and 40% worked at least 12.5 consecutive hours. With that in mind, Dell Children’s Medical Center is testing out a new hire that may help ease the burden of nurses.

Moxi is a robot created by Diligent Robotics that is being used to gather supplies, deliver linens to rooms and escort families to other areas of the hospital. Moxi can also deliver lab samples and remove used linen bags from rooms—tasks that pull nurses from their patients an estimated 30% of the time.

Designed to have social intelligence, Moxi can “hear” noise and interpret its meaning—getting out of the way of a moving gurney, for example. It can “look” toward and greet passersby and is able to change its eye shape. It can also learn new tasks by asking questions. Moxi creators gave it the moniker “cobot” or collaborative robot , one that’s designed to work with people instead of performing a single task or replacing a person.

Lacking the warm and fuzzy appeal of Moxi, TUG is a robot designed by Aethon in 2004 for automating material delivery in hospitals. It’s a secure vessel that delivers payloads of up to 1,400 pounds—basically, an enormous cart—but it uses biometrics or PIN numbers, delivering food to patients who order via touchscreen. Ultimately, the goal is to free up time for nurses, giving them the support to do the amazing job they do, even better.


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