AWS Public Sector Blog

How AI-powered robotics give nurses more time to spend with patients

COVID-19 has been challenging for all industries. But hospitals and nurses were especially hard hit, suffering from extreme and prolonged adverse working conditions due to COVID-19. During the pandemic, healthcare workers’ rates of post-traumatic stress disorder soared; three out of 10 of them considered leaving healthcare altogether.

Nursing shortages are not a new phenomenon, but the pandemic has exacerbated the problem. The situation has forced hospitals to think creatively about their staffing models, hiring practices, compensation, and benefits. It has also brought clinical teams, operators, and IT departments together in an effort to seek new ways to use technology. One healthcare system is using technology powered by the cloud, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), to help address these nurse staffing challenges.

Mary Washington Healthcare looks to innovative healthcare solutions

Mary Washington Healthcare (MWHC) is a nonprofit healthcare system in Virginia that provides inpatient and outpatient care through over 50 facilities including two hospitals: Mary Washington Hospital, a 471-bed medical center, and Stafford Hospital, a 100-bed facility. Shortly after the Delta variant surge, they faced staffing challenges due to increased COVID-19 hospitalizations and reduced clinical staff due to burn out.

In addition to the challenge of finding and hiring new staff, MWHC’s current staff was exhausted due the long hours and intensity associated with caring for patients with COVID-19. To address the problem, they tasked an interdisciplinary committee to develop recommendations. Cody Blankenship, vice president of performance improvement, and Eileen Dohmann, senior vice president and chief nursing officer at MWHC, were willing to look at unconventional options.

“Our work with Diligent Robotics arose out of the Mary Washington Healthcare’s Innovation Council, which seeks to leverage technology for the purposes of supporting clinical staff and improving the quality of patient care,” said Cody.

Robotics and machine learning help nurses on the hospital floor

Like most hospitals, MWHC’s nurses and clinical care teams are pulled in many directions. Hospitals are often built with mission-critical departments spread across different units, wings, buildings, and floors; as a result, nurses have to leave their patients to conduct routine tasks like transferring lab specimens, medications, and medical supplies. MWHC found that their nurses were spending 30% of their time away from their unit – difficult at the best of times, and unacceptable during a pandemic, when nurses were sometimes the only human contact COVID-19 patients had.

MWHC turned to Diligent Robotics, the robotics and AI company that created Moxi—a hospital robot assistant that helps clinical staff with routine, non-patient-facing tasks. Successfully deployed in hospitals across the country, Moxi supports hospital staff by handling fetch-and-deliver tasks for frontline clinicians. At MWHC, Moxi currently travels between 37 distinct areas and departments taking on a wide variety of tasks including food orders, medication delivery and pickup, specimen collection and dropoff, and more. Moxi’s badging system makes sure humans are at the beginning and end of each transaction, swiping in to confirm that the right item has been sent and swiping out to confirm that it’s been received.

Moxi leverages Amazon Web Services (AWS) to store data, perform fleet scheduling, and build out ML infrastructure. Diligent Robotics uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) buckets to store data in the cloud and perform optimizations in routes and scheduling. The Moxi team also uses Amazon SageMaker to help the company scale their ML work instead of having to develop each algorithm from scratch in-house.

Hospital staff and patients find support in cloud-powered robot, Moxi

To get staff comfortable with their new colleague, Moxi, Eileen started taking the robot with her wherever she went. Thanks to lots of meet and greets (and a pizza party), nurses started to realize how Moxi could help. Today, nurses are coming up with their own ideas for how to deploy Moxi to improve efficiency and care. For instance, nurses asked for additional location to be added to Moxi’s workflow so that it could run COVID-19 tests to the micro-biology lab. That change was implemented within three weeks of Moxi’s deployment at MWHC. Shortly thereafter, nurses requested and implemented a new routine for Moxi to deliver boxed meals in the evening hours for patients who were admitted after normal dinner hours.

“Shortly after we got started, Moxi took a tremendous amount of pressure off of our nurses and it reduced the anxiety from patients and staff – because Moxi was reliable and available 24/7,” said Eileen.

At MWHC, some of Moxi’s most memorable tasks are also some of its simplest. At the height of the pandemic, it collected chargers for tablets and phones so COVID-19 patients could video call their families.

Thanks to Moxi, MWHC nurses, certified nursing assistants and techs remain at bedsides. They spend more time practicing at the top of their licenses. And, most importantly, they get to focus on taking care of patients.

To learn more about Moxi, visit Diligent Robotics and Mary Washington Healthcare.

Learn more about machine learning on AWS and machine learning for healthcare.

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Will Sellheim

Will Sellheim

Will Sellheim leads the Amazon Web Services (AWS) state and local government healthcare provider business. He is responsible for establishing this new business area for AWS and is accountable for strategy development and execution, as well as growth. Will has spent 15 years in healthcare – early in his career he learned how to navigate complex organizations, build coalitions, and deliver results when he was tapped to lead health IT efforts at the White House Office of Management during the first and second Obama administrations. Before joining AWS, he built an analytics, advisory, and thought leadership function at Anthem, Inc. for digital health, cost of care, and delivery system transformation, across Medicaid, Medicare, and commercial health plans. Before that, he built out several clinical business areas at a large integrated health system and was responsible for developing a new value-based care model that focuses on chronic specialty services, strategy and execution for building the nation’s first comprehensive neurological wellness center, and establishing a new bone marrow transplant program. He has a passion for moving from strategy to execution and working with diverse teams.

Jessie Metcalf

Jessie Metcalf

Jessie Metcalf is a strategic programs manager for health and human services at Amazon Web Services (AWS). She leads initiatives that help state and local governments and nonprofits leverage technology to prevent and combat housing instability. By building coalitions and leveraging technology to overcome business and policy obstacles, communities are able to address some of society's most challenging issues such as substance use disorder, recidivism, homelessness, and child safety. She is located in Austin, Texas.