Wave of the future? Robot assists nurses with routine non-patient care duties

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The most important time spent by hospital nursing staffs is in direct patient care, but Registered Nurse Phebe Iype of Texas Health Dallas says that nurses spend almost 30 percent of a shift fetching supplies and performing other functions that get the staff ready to care for the patients.

Enter Moxi, a robot that has been working 24/7 for the past month with clinical staff on the neurology unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

“Moxi is a teammate,” Josh Tippy, nurse manager of the unit at Texas Health Dallas, said in a news release. “She relieves some of the pressure by helping with support tasks that we do every day and allows us more time with our patients.”

It’s a great help, Iype said.

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“When I started my nursing career, I never even dreamt of this, but now I can see the future of robots in the health profession,” she said.

Texas Health Dallas is the first hospital in the country to deploy Moxi. The research project is a collaboration between Texas Health and Diligent Robotics, an Austin-based artificial intelligence company focused on enhancing relationships between people and technology.

The robot uses artificial intelligence to autonomously move around and uses an arm to pick up and deliver objects. During the month-long trial, Moxi helped clinical staff with fetch-and-gather tasks such as delivering admissions kits and lab specimens and picking up and dropping off linen bags.

Technically, Moxi is an it, not a he or a she, but the staff says the robot has a gentle disposition, so Moxi is referred to as “she.”

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It’s unknown how the male nurses react to that, but Tippy is a Moxi fan.

“She’s taking linens out for us, she’s bringing and stocking rooms before we even realize it. She’s really created with my team a sense of unity as we look at what can Moxi do for us,” Tippy said.

He says there’s growing excitement about the direction of health care.

“We need the tools of the future and so having a robot assistant and looking at what could be has just created a different vision, even for the unit, on what we want to become.” Tippy said.

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An example was using Moxi to deliver supplies to nurses who were caring for a patient in isolation so they did not have to get out of their isolation gear.

“We thought about how we could make Moxi approachable and friendly,” Agata Rozga, head of product development for Diligent Robotics, said in the news release. “It’s been very gratifying to see people, especially patients and their families in the hallway, acknowledge her characteristics.”

Non-robots who encountered Moxi in the hallways frequently stopped to talk to her and take a selfie.

Diligent Robotics will evaluate data collected during the month-long pilot to determine what the future holds for Moxi and Texas Health Resources, the news release said.

Rozga says reading about nursing is a different experience from actually seeing what a nursing unit does on the floor, day in and day out, on the day shift and on the night shift.

“It’s just an incredible and valuable experience for us to see that first hand and think about our product development in the context of that understanding,” Rozga said.

“We really thought a lot about, ‘Well, how do we make Moxi approachable? How do we make her cute, friendly?’ And I think a lot of those things were intentional in how we designed her,” Rozga said.

“It’s been very gratifying to see that people are attributing those characteristics like, ‘Oh, here’s our Moxi. She’s so cute. She’s helpful.’ To see them actually projecting that onto the robot’s been kind of fun to see,” she said.

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