AUSTIN (KXAN) — She roves the floors of the hospitals at all hours.
Her face and body are rounded corners. Her eyes are bright and wide and can change to hearts. The friendly one-armed robot quietly works.
Her name is Moxi, and she’s support on wheels for frontline workers battling COVID-19.
“We’ve had Moxi around for a little over a year,” said Josh Kemph, Chief Operating Officer at Medical City Heart Hospital and Medical City Spine Hospital in Dallas. “Anytime you can introduce technology or an innovative idea that allows more time back to the patient—we’re all for it.”
Moxi is one of the busiest assistants at the two hospitals. She works full time and delivers PPE, coronavirus and other lab samples and COVID-19 tests. She’s also picks up and delivers anything dropped off for patients.
“When you add it up—I mean it could add maybe 10-15 minutes per task, and when you have Moxi running you know anywhere from 50 to 60 to 75 tasks during a shift—I mean it adds up quickly. So, yeah it’s hours and hours back to the staff,” explained Kemph.
Diligent Robotics in Austin built the robot assistant to help healthcare workers with routine tasks so they can spend more time with patients.
“When a hospital frontline worker needs to go from their unit to deliver a lab sample or run and get a piece of medication from the pharmacy… it’s a physical burden on them,” said Andrea Thomaz, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of Diligent Robotics. “They are leaving their unit, leaving their patient… the other nurses that are on that unit are going to have to cover for them. And this is stressful for everyone involved. And so, that’s what we’re really focused on is making sure that, you know, that clinicians get to stay in clinical care, and they don’t get interrupted from that.”
Reducing COVID-19 exposure
During the pandemic, Moxi’s role is even more critical in helping reduce coronavirus exposure risks for frontline workers and patients.
“The day to day work in the hospital has changed where patients are located, what supplies need to get where,” explained Thomaz. “Moxi carrying things from place to place—you have fewer people moving around between spaces.”
The company said just in November there was a 30% increase in use at hospitals that have the automated helpers.
“At one of the hospitals we’re installed in Dallas Moxie delivered over 4,000 items of PPE throughout the month. And every one of those is something that a nurse did not have to run down to another unit to grab,” she said.
During the last nine months, Thomaz explained they’ve been able to respond to any service needs remotely. Also, with things changing during COVID-19, her team is able to quickly add new tasks and change Moxi’s workflow as needed.
The hospitals in Dallas are now working with the company on how Moxi can help with the COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the next few months.
Future of health care beyond the pandemic
“Moxi is not here to replace anybody,” said Kemph who hopes to add another robot to his staff. “Moxi is part of the team around here. Everybody knows Moxi, usually gets a smile when they see Moxi coming down the hallway, so yeah, I mean, Moxi is more of a friend.”
Last year, Moxi was helping nurses during a trial run at Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin. A hospital spokesperson said it has not been determined if Moxi will be returning to Dell Children’s.
Diligent Robotics wouldn’t disclose how much it costs to add Moxi to the staff.
Thomaz explained they’re currently talking to Central Texas hospitals about adding the high-tech helper to the team.
“Really onboarding Moxi to the hospital is a lot like onboarding a new employee. You take Moxi on a tour of the hospital and show Moxi where the work needs to happen,” said Thomaz. “Moxi builds a map with its sensors of the hospital.”
Thomaz said during such a critical time for frontline workers Moxi has provided a connection and a few moments of levity.
“It’s not every day that you see a kind of smiling robot going down the halls,” said Thomaz. “We put smiles on the faces of patients and nurses… when they get to see Moxi, and Moxi’s heart eyes flashing at them as it’s doing a delivery.”