By Andrea Thomaz, CEO and Co-Founder (article also appears on Medium)
September 18, 2018
Burnout in the healthcare industry feels inevitable. Currently, nurses face significant physical, mental and emotional challenges in increasingly overburdened work environments. The average turnover rate for Registered Nurses (RNs) in hospitals hovers around 20 percent within their first year in the field.
Clinical staff spend a reported average of 30 percent of their time on non-care activities like gathering medical supplies or restocking supply rooms. Staff clock up to eight to ten miles a day running back and forth to supply rooms, further diverting them from direct patient care. The top five things that nurses wish they had more time for include: emotional support, education, care coordination and discharge planning, care planning, and timeliness of care.
With the ongoing complexities of attending to the changing conditions of patients combined with the demanding back-end tasks expected in healthcare shift work, there’s less and less time for meaningful face to face contact with patients.
But with the right help, this can change.
People + Technology
Enter AI. To address these types of cognitive overloads many industries face, my focus as a technologist has been to utilize technology that learns, adapts and has limitless potential. We need to utilize the technology that has the power to not just create something new, but address something existing. And utilize the one that has the power to work with everyday people to address an existing problem or inefficiency.
We decided to start with healthcare and today are announcing Moxi, our socially intelligent robot that supports clinical staff as an important and trusted member of the team.
Moxi’s goal as a robot is not to replace the jobs of people, but quite the opposite: to support people in their roles. Moxi supports clinical staff by augmenting logistical tasks that limit valuable patient care time. By executing non-patient facing, logistical tasks that clinical teams are responsible for, Moxi creates a more efficient and thoughtful environment allowing for better patient care.
Moxi by Diligent Robotics (photo by Daniel Cavazos)
As a friendly, sensitive and intuitive robot, Moxi not only alleviates clinical staff of routine tasks but does so in a non-threatening and supportive way that encourages positive relationships between humans and robots, further enhancing clinical staff’s ability to and interest in leveraging AI in the healthcare industry. Created with a face to visually communicate social cues and able to show its intention before moving to the next task, Moxi is built to foster trust between patients and staff alike, setting the stage for future innovation and partnerships with developing technology. Moxi’s specific tasks and responsibilities at each hospital will be tailored to fit each hospital’s needs.
The first trials with Moxi begin this week at several hospitals including Texas Health Dallas, The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB Health) and Houston Methodist Hospital.
Learning to Grow Together
We founded Diligent Robotics in 2016 with the vision of changing the way people feel about and utilize technology.
We believe that the unity and harmony between people and AI has the potential to change the way we take care of one another. We’re specifically focusing on the development of socially intelligent robots that function in care-oriented environments such as hospitals. With robots as trusted and reliable members of a team, we hope to inspire people to use their ingenuity, passion and skills to address bigger and more pressing challenges.
Care is a team effort, we hope you join us.
Moxi photos by Daniel Cavazos and video by Lyn Graft.
Great write up in IEEE Spectrum by Evan Akerman, giving a nice technical perspective on our work. "Diligent Robotics, a startup founded by Andrea Thomaz and Vivian Chu, is undaunted by the challenge of autonomous mobile manipulation in semi-structured environments." [full article]
Today we are announcing our $2.1 million seed investment, led by Silicon-Valley-based True Ventures. We are honored to be joining the True portfolio, and to have Rohit Sharma on our board to help navigate the early days. Also investing is Pathbreaker Ventures, with Ryan Gembala asking all the right questions about service robotics. Boom Capital, with Celestine Schnugg who we could see from our first meeting, is going to bring a unique perspective. And Next Coast Ventures is a local investor, who not only joined our seed round but are letting us work out of their new office space in downtown Austin as we ramp up. We are incredibly excited to have assembled an amazing set of people backing the vision of Diligent Robotics, and we are ready to hit the ground running to bring that vision to reality. We are looking forward to an incredible 2018, as we hire our founding team and deploy robots with the first set of hospital customers in our early adopters program.
We have been awarded a $500k Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation. This is a Phase II grant for research on “Mobile Manipulation Hospital Service Robots” and is follow-up to the Phase I grant of $225k awarded in 2016. The 6-month Phase I grant allowed us to build up a small team for a sprint to prototype, and resulted in 1-week technical feasibility tests at three different Austin-area hospitals (Poli is seen here with the nursing team at Seton Medical Center Austin). We look forward to building on these early results during Phase II of the project, building our next prototypes and focusing on long term pilot testing with hospitals to establish the technical and commercial feasibility of hospital service robots for acute care units. Our goal is to develop service robots that hospital staff view as a competent and useful member of the care team.
The Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas, is Seton Healthcare’s newest teaching hospital in Austin. We were invited to demo our hospital service robot in their opening day celebration. Poli performed fetch and deliver tasks all afternoon in the ICU, showing visitors how Seton is taking the lead in technology innovation to improve patient care. “Time is precious and we want to spend our time with our patients, not on non-clinical tasks that a robot can do.The community trusts us to provide person-centered care, and this is just one more way we are doing that. We’re constantly working to improve the patient’s experience,” -- Kristi Henderson, VP of Innovation and Virtual Care, Seton Healthcare