Why robots will enter our hospitals before our homes

Of all the futuristic technology we discuss, I think robots are by far the most unfavorable. We either associate them with joblessness or societal anarchy. Nothing good, really. So wouldn’t you think a nurse robot would be a massive failure?

Surprisingly, this isn’t the case.

Diligent Robotics has created a nurse robot named Moxi which has been incredibly well-received during their trials at a few Dallas-based hospitals.

Moxi isn’t trying to act like a nurse. Instead, Diligent Robotics founders Andrea Thomaz and Vivian Chu have designed their robot to run the approximately 30% of tasks nurses do that don’t involve interacting with patients, like running errands around the floor or dropping off specimens for analysis at a lab.

Katharine Schwab, Fast Company

The nurses have come to love Moxi because it is so dependable.

It works like this: Moxi is hooked into the hospital’s electronic health record system. Nurses can set up rules and tasks so that the robot gets a command for an errand when certain things change in a patient’s record on Moxi’s floor. For instance, if a patient has been discharged and their room is marked clean in the health record, Moxi will get a command to take an admission bucket—a set of fresh supplies for a new patient—to the room so that it’s all ready to go for the next person.

Katharine Schwab, Fast Company

Moxi just takes care of what needs to be done. 

Moxi is a total juxtaposition to the crude, mechanical robots that come out of Boston Dynamics:

Because Moxi is such a pleasant sight and assistant around the hospital, it’s future as a nurse robot is only going to grow.

The Emerging Nurse Robot

What’s most fascinating about Moxi is that while it was roaming the hospital, taking care of duties, many patients actually were interested in engaging with Moxi. They wanted to get a closer look. Possibly talk with it. And maybe even let it hang around their bedside.

Diligent Robotics achieved what all roboticists strive for – a positive human-computer interaction.

At the moment, Moxi is focused on taking care of the non-patient facing duties of nursing. But clearly patients are interested in Moxi becoming a psychological aid. If this friendly-faced robot can help soothe some of the emotional turmoil that patients face, then more power to Moxi.

I find this surprising for the US setting, considering our general apprehension toward robots. It’s something I would expect in Japan.

Nonetheless, nurse robots are a hot development. Google has patented and is in the process of developing a robot nurse. Amazon has been trying its hardest to turn Alexa into a care companion. And they’re even working on a stand-up version of Alexa that would roam around one’s house to help out.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts among all jobs, the top three in terms of growth from 2014 to 2024 are Personal Health Aides, Registered Nurses, and Home Health Aides.

Robot Caregivers

While Moxi and other nurse robots will make major progress in the laborious tasks at a hospital. A compassionate nurse robot would be very beneficial to this growing field.

Overall, this leads me to claim that robots like Moxi will enter our hospitals long before they enter our homes.