Meet Moxi, the Nurse Robot

By Eva Briggs

Robot MoxyWhat images pop into your mind when you think of a nurse?

Most people respond with adjectives related to human qualities of kindness, caring and helpfulness. In fact, ranks nurses as  the most trusted profession, with an 84% positive rating.

So, when I read about a nursing robot, naturally I was skeptical. After all, how can a robot do a nurse’s job?

It turns out a lot of what nurses really enjoy doing — hands-on patient care — isn’t what they actually do all day long. In fact, a lot of a nurse’s job, as much as one third, consists of fetching items from one place to another. Your patient needs another blanket? Off to the linen supply closet. You need more wound care supplies? Another trip, this time to a supply room, to fetch them.

This leads to high rate of hospital nursing burnout and turnover. Nurses want time to provide emotional support to their patients, to educate them, to coordinate their care, for discharge planning and simply providing timely care. But much of their day is spent on gathering medical supplies and restocking supply rooms. Hospital nurses can average as much as eight to 10 miles a day running back and forth to supply rooms.

So enter Moxi. It would be more accurate to think of Moxi as a mechanized nursing step-and-fetch-it creature rather than a full-fledged nurse. She’s not designed for direct patient interaction. But what makes her endearing (can a robot be endearing?) is that she’s designed to be “socially intelligent.”

She has a cute LED face and a soft gentle voice. She’s designed to be approachable, congenial, and cooperative. She’ll say hi as she passes people in the hallway, and blinks her big blue digital eyes at them.

On the technological side, she uses artificial intelligence to map and learn about her environment. She travels on wheels with sensors to avoid hitting other objects. Moxi’s arm has a sophisticated gripper to allow her to perform tasks such as selecting items from storage, placing them on a tray, and delivering them throughout the facility. She has a digital screen that reads out information about the task she’s performing at any given time.

A nurse can summon Moxi by pushing a button to call her. During a trial with Moxi at Texas Health Dallas, she delivered samples to the lab, all the dirty linens, and brought supplies needed by the nurses.

I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, but Moxi reminds me of C-3PO. Google her for yourself and see if you agree!

Eva Briggs is a medical doctor who works at two urgent care centers (Central Square and Fulton) operated by Oswego Health.