Digital Robotics Help Clinicians Put Patients First

Battling Burnout With Technology

The COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on the well-being of healthcare workers worldwide. Three years later, with staffing shortages and heavy workloads, many are still feeling the effects. A recent study investigated work overload among healthcare workers and reported approximately 50% of all respondents reported burnout, with the highest levels among nurses and other clinical staff.

To maintain exceptional patient care while prioritizing staff well-being, teams at Northwestern Medicine turned to an unexpected ally — robots.

Meet Moxi

The Northwestern Medicine Innovation team partnered with startup Diligent Robotics to deploy robots at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Moxi is a robot that uses an artificial intelligence (AI) system to navigate through hospitals and a robotic arm to open doors.

First, Moxi must learn the hospital environment, enabling it to move freely through hallways, elevators and badge-protected doors. Moxi has three drawers, allowing it to stop at three different spots along its route before continuing on to its next list of tasks.

Moxi is not meant to replace care professionals, but augment their work by automating some simple and mundane daily tasks, allowing them to work at the top of their license. The robots help clinicians put patients first by taking on tasks that take them away from patient care, such as picking up lab specimens and delivering medications. The goal is to enable clinicians to focus on clinical work, ease workloads and help alleviate burnout.

One of the Team

Since joining the team in December 2022, the fleet of four Moxi Robots have completed more than 2,000 deliveries. For this pilot, two Moxis cover lab specimen deliveries and two focus on pharmacy deliveries for oncology medication. On average, the four Moxi robots perform more than 20 tasks during a day shift that would have otherwise fallen to a clinician.

Staff have adapted well to interacting with Moxi and consider the robots to be part of the team. Many report feeling grateful for the elimination of errands that enables them to focus on more patient-focused work.

Looking to the Future

As with any new technology, teams at Northwestern Medicine are looking for improvements and strategies to improve Moxi’s effectiveness in the pilot’s next phase. These include maximizing efficiency with better route plans, optimizing the number of deliveries by scheduling tasks in advance and ensuring there are three stops on every route, and increasing use by assigning night-shift tasks and partnering with other departments.

As Northwestern Medicine continues to measure Moxi’s success, clinicians are hopeful about the possibility of expanding the fleet throughout the health system and improving staff well-being.