Apr 13, 2022 - News

Austin robotics firm set to ramp up production on nurse helpers

A person stands with a robot at a medical facility.

Moxi reporting for duty and picking up supplies from a nurse at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Photo courtesy Diligent Robotics

Next time you end up in a hospital — and we hope it’s not any time soon — you might see a friendly looking robot born in East Austin.

Driving the news: Robotics firm Diligent announced this week it raised more than $30 million in its latest investment round as the company ramps up production of Moxi, its flagship unit.

Why it matters: Moxi performs delivery tasks for frontline health care teams.

  • Stress and burnout have been persistent problems in health care for a long while, leading to a shortage of nurses and clinical staff. But over the past two years, COVID-19 has driven this phenomenon into crisis.

Sophisticated gofers, the robots can ease those thousands of steps nurses put on their feet and ankles every day. And increasingly, hospitals — like other sectors — are looking to automate work.

What they’re saying: "Fundamentally, the way we see the robots is that they work side by side with people," Diligent Robotics co-founder Vivian Chu told Axios.

  • "Using the robot to relieve front-line health care workers from point-to-point delivery and retrieval tasks has been successful in our original launch," David Marshall, chief nursing executive at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, said. "Staff members have told me that [it] gives them more time for direct patient care."
  • Of note: Cedars-Sinai Health Ventures is an investor in Diligent.
  • Lisa Maxwell, a spokesperson for the Texas Nurses Association, told Axios that "there is great opportunity for technology to offload some of the non-value-added tasks of nursing to enable nurses to do more of what they love — be with patients and utilize their knowledge and skills to ... support their healing."

How it works: The robots are programmed with similar algorithms to self-driving cars, as they move around gurneys and wheelchairs to complete tasks.

  • There's also a valuable data component: Moxi is hooked into electronic hospital records as it pulls from inventory for patients.
A person tinkers with a robot.
Prashant Rao, a senior robotics electrical engineer at Diligent, working to build a robot. Photo courtesy Diligent Robotics.

The robots are manufactured at the company's facility around the corner from Blue Owl Brewing.

  • Founded in 2017, the company has more than 70 employees.
  • Hospitals pay Diligent depending on how much use Moxi gets. Chu declined to disclose those fees.
  • Of note: The robots are not currently used in Austin.

Zoom out: There's a lot of money to be made in the smart hospital sector. The global market was estimated at $27.6 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $82.89 billion by 2026, per Research and Markets.


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