Hospital robots help fight the wave of nurse burnout

Nurses at the Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Va., have had an extra assistant on shifts since February: Moxy, a 4-foot-tall robot that hauls medicines, supplies, lab samples and personal items. Transported from floor to floor of the hall. After two years of battling Covid-19 and its associated burnout, nurses say it’s a welcome relief.
“There are two levels of burnout: ‘we don’t have enough time this weekend’ burnout, and then the pandemic burnout that our nurses are going through right now,” said Abby, a former intensive care unit and emergency room nurse who manages support. Nursing staff Abigail Hamilton performs at a hospital show.
Moxi is one of several specialized delivery robots that have been developed in recent years to reduce the burden on healthcare workers. Even before the pandemic, nearly half of US nurses felt their workplace lacked an adequate work-life balance. The emotional toll of watching patients die and colleagues become infected on such a large scale — and the fear of bringing Covid-19 home to the family — exacerbated burnout. The study also found that burnout can have long-term consequences for nurses, including cognitive impairment and insomnia after years of burnout early in their careers. The world is already experiencing a shortage of nurses during the pandemic, with about two-thirds of American nurses now saying they have considered leaving the profession, according to a National Nurses United survey.
In some places, shortages have led to wage increases for permanent staff and temporary nurses. In countries like Finland, nurses demanded higher wages and went on strike. But it also paves the way for more robots to be used in healthcare settings.
At the forefront of this trend is Moxi, who has survived the pandemic in the lobbies of some of the country’s largest hospitals, bringing along things like smartphones or favorite teddy bears while Covid-19 protocols keep family members safe. to the emergency room.
Moxi was created by Diligent Robotics, a company founded in 2017 by former Google X researcher Vivian Chu and Andrea Thomaz, who developed Moxi while he was an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin. The roboticists met when Tomaz was consulting for Chu at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Socially Intelligent Machine Laboratory. Moxi’s first commercial deployment came just months after the pandemic began. About 15 Moxi robots are currently operating in US hospitals, with 60 more scheduled to be deployed later this year.
“In 2018, any hospital that considers partnering with us will be a CFO Special Project or Hospital of the Future Innovation Project,” said Andrea Tomaz, CEO of Diligent Robotics. “Over the past two years, we have seen that almost every healthcare system is considering robotics and automation, or including robotics and automation in their strategic agenda.”
In recent years, a number of robots have been developed to perform medical tasks such as disinfecting hospital rooms or assisting physiotherapists. Robots that touch people – such as the Robear that helps older people out of bed in Japan – are still largely experimental, in part due to liability and regulatory requirements. Specialized delivery robots are more common.
Equipped with a robotic arm, Moxi can greet passers-by with a cooing sound and heart-shaped eyes on its digital face. But in practice, Moxi is more like Tug, another hospital delivery robot, or Burro, a robot that helps farmers in California vineyards. Cameras on the front and lidar sensors on the back help Moxi map hospital floors and detect people and objects to avoid.
Nurses can call the Moxi robot from the kiosk at the nursing station or send tasks to the robot via text message. Moxi can be used to carry items that are too large to fit in the plumbing system, such as IV pumps, lab samples, and other fragile items, or special items such as a piece of birthday cake.
A survey of nurses using a Moxxi-like delivery robot at a hospital in Cyprus found that about half expressed concern that the robots would pose a threat to their jobs, but there is still a long way to go before they can replace humans. . way to go. Moxxi still needs help with basic tasks. For example, Moxi might require someone to press the elevator button on a certain floor.
Even more worrying is that the cybersecurity risks associated with delivery robots in hospitals are not well understood. Last week, security firm Cynerio demonstrated that exploiting a vulnerability could allow hackers to remotely control the Tug robot or expose patients to privacy risks. (No such bug has been found in Moxi’s robots, and the company says it is taking steps to ensure their “safety status”.)
A case study sponsored by the American Nurses Association evaluated Moxi trials in Dallas, Houston, and Galveston, Texas hospitals before and after Moxi’s first commercial deployment in 2020. The researchers warn that the use of such robots will require hospital staff to manage inventory more carefully, as robots do not read expiration dates and using expired bandages increases the risk of infection.
Most of the 21 nurses interviewed for the survey said that Moxxi gave them more time to talk to discharged patients. Many nurses said that Moses saved their strength, brought joy to patients and their families, and made sure that patients always had water to drink while taking their medicines. “I can do it faster, but it’s better to let Moxie do it so I can do something more useful,” one of the nurses interviewed said. Among the less positive reviews, nurses complained that Moxxi had difficulty navigating narrow hallways during the morning rush hour or was unable to access electronic health records to anticipate needs. Another said some patients were skeptical that “robot eyes were recording them.” The authors of the case study concluded that Moxi cannot provide skilled nursing care and is best suited for low-risk, repetitive tasks that will save nurses time.
These types of tasks can represent large enterprises. In addition to its recent expansion with new hospitals, Diligent Robotics also announced the closing of a $30 million funding round last week. The company will use the funding in part to better integrate Moxi’s software with electronic health records so that tasks can be completed without requests from nurses or doctors.
In her experience, Abigail Hamilton of Mary Washington Hospital says that burnout can force people into early retirement, push them into temporary nursing jobs, affect their relationships with loved ones, or force them out of the profession entirely.
However, according to her, the simple things Moxxi does can make a difference. This saves nurses 30 minutes of travel time from the fifth floor to the basement to pick up medicines that the pharmacy cannot deliver through the pipe system. And delivering food to the sick after work is one of Moxxi’s most popular professions. Since two Moxi robots began working in the hallways of Mary Washington Hospital in February, they have saved workers about 600 hours.
“As a society, we are not the same as we were in February 2020,” Hamilton said, explaining why her hospital is using robots. “We need to come up with different ways to support caregivers at the bedside.”
Update April 29, 2022 9:55 AM ET: This story has been updated to adjust the robot’s height to just over 4 feet instead of nearly 6 feet as previously stated and to clarify that Tomaz was in the Tech Georgia Institute for Chu’s advice.
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Post time: Nov-29-2022