New robot helps nurses schedule patients in the labor unit

A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institutes of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in Cambridge created a robot that was able to assist nurses working in a labor and delivery unit with the complicated task of scheduling patients, according to a new paper recently presented at the Robotics: Science and Systems Conference in Ann Arbor, Mich.

MIT's robot was designed to learn from nurses working in a labor unit. The robot was then able to make scheduling recommendations like assigning patients to labor beds and assigning nurses to assist with C-sections. These recommendations were accepted by nurses and physicians 90 percent of the time.

In hospitals, robots currently assist in simple tasks like delivering supplies and medications, but they require explicit instructions and are often incapable of predicting human needs.

"The aim of the work was to develop artificial intelligence that can learn from people about how the labor and delivery unit works, so that robots can better anticipate how to be helpful or when to stay out of the way — and maybe even help by collaborating in making challenging decisions," said MIT professor Julie Shah, PhD, the senior author of the paper. "The awkward robots of the past will be replaced by valued team members."

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