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By Mike Millard for Healthcare IT News
ChristianaCare this week announced some new help to augment its workforce: robotic assistants that can help nurses and other hospital staff spend more time with patients by automatic certain time-intensive tasks.
WHY IT MATTERS
The technology, called Moxi, is a collaborative robot that can work alongside nurses and interact with them directly, performing nonclinical tasks such as deliveries and pickups to enable them to focus on care delivery.
ChristianaCare purchased five of these 300-pound “cobots” – which can work 22-hour shifts, be fully charged in two hours and carry up to 70 pounds – with a $1.5 million grant from the American Nurses Foundation.
The Moxi cobots will soon be integrated with ChristianaCare’s Cerner electronic health record platform, officials say.
Connected to the EHR data, the cobots can anticipate the needs of both clinicians and patients – and perform tasks without human involvement. They’ll use artificial intelligence to proactively identify when nurses need equipment or medications, for instance.
Other automated tasks might include bringing supplies to patients based on nurses’ order requests, making rounds across units to deliver lab samples, delivering pharmaceuticals not stocked on the floor, or helping prioritize tasks based on the nursing workload in a unit, ensuring the busiest nurses will get help first.
The cobots will be deployed to 11 inpatient units and work alongside more than 400 nurses.
Moxi’s design features include so-called “social intelligence” to help prevent it from bumping into people or objects in hallways (the cobots also wave to people and pose for selfies, ChristianaCare officials say).
The cobots can also use their robotic arms to open automatic doors and elevator panels. And the more they’re used each day, the more they can learn and adapt to its environment and specific ways of doing things. The AI-powered Moxi is currently mapping out hospital hallways with sensors and machine learning to help it navigate and work autonomously.
“When the Moxi cobots are fully integrated, we anticipate that they will complete up to 200 delivery tasks a day,” said Katherine Collard, RN-BC, chief nursing informatics officer at ChristianaCare, in a statement. “By making point-to-point deliveries, Moxi can save nurses hours of time and thousands of steps.”
“Nurses need the time and space to deliver care and patient education at the top of their license,” said Ric Cuming, RN, chief nurse executive and president, ChristianaCare HomeHealth. “Moxi will be doing those hunting and gathering tasks such as getting equipment and supplies, which nurses are doing today but don’t need to be doing.”
“Moxi is not a replacement for a nurse or nursing position – or any position,” Cuming added. “It is an additional resource for nurses and their teams.”
THE LARGER TREND
ChristianaCare points to research published in the Journal of Nursing Management that shows nurses spending as much as 33% of their shifts on simple but burdensome tasks such as dropping off lab specimens or collecting medications from the pharmacy.
Helping alleviate some of those time-consuming processes isn’t just a nice-to-have anymore. It’s an imperative. Earlier this spring, a startling report showed that as many as 90% of nurses were considering leaving the healthcare profession within the next year.
It wasn’t just pandemic-era exhaustion to blame: Some 72% of nurses who responded to the survey said they were experiencing burnout long before COVID-19.
Nursing staff shortages have been well-documented, of course. As more nurses leave, the more work falls to the ones who remain. The poll showed nurses naming administrative burden and manual tasks among key causes of their burnout.
Just this week, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy raised the alarm on healthcare worker burnout and resignation trends, issuing an advisory calling on healthcare organizations to reduce administrative burdens for their staffs.
Meanwhile, robots continue to evolve and find uses across the care continuum, in the hospital and at home. Just this week we reported how the New York State Office for the Aging is deploying AI-enabled robots as companions for older adults.
ON THE RECORD
“What Moxi is doing in health systems like ChristianaCare is really transforming the way we think about health care and allowing staff to focus on the people in the hospital as opposed to the tasks,” said Dr. Andrea Thomaz, CEO and cofounder of Diligent Robotics, which created the technology, in a statement.
The cobots “could make a real difference in a nurse’s day – alleviating burnout and staffing shortages, which have become especially prevalent since the pandemic,” added Eva Karp, RN-BC, chief clinical and patient safety officer at Cerner.
Susan Birkhoff, RN, nurse scientist at ChristianaCare, said the deployment offers a “transformative opportunity” to “move the science forward around robotics in nursing” that could have “broad implications for nursing practice, workforce and education.”