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Meet Spencer, Minnesota's first robot health care worker

Hutchinson Health’s robot staffer is first of its kind in Minnesota
Hutchinson Health’s robot staffer is first of its kind in Minnesota 02:16

HUTCHINSON, Minn. — A Minnesota hospital is fighting workforce shortages by adding a robot to its staff.

Hutchinson Health, located about 40 miles west of the Twin Cities, is the first hospital in the state to do so.

Spencer is an artificial intelligence-powered robot, and a beloved member of Hutchinson Health's staff. 

"We are a big cohesive team here in Hutchinson and he is definitely a part of it," said Kristi Hanson, RN. 

Spencer's main job is to deliver specimen lab work. Between the oncology department and the lab clinic, Spencer stays busy, averaging 24 trips a day.

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"He wanders the hallways, everybody says 'hello.' Our staff all know his name, most of our patients know his name," Hanson said.

That allows health care workers like Hanson to stay where they're needed most. 

"We have minimal nurses, and we want to be here for our patients," she said.

Since 2018, the robot's value has been proven in more ways than one to hospital staff, and they'd like to get another one.  


"Once the robots are in, they don't want them to go," said Wade Pfeiffer, CEO of Relay Robotics.

Pfeiffer says Hutchinson Health is one of 20 hospital systems utilizing its AI-powered robots throughout the United States and abroad. 

"Whether it be nurses, pharmacy techs, lab technicians, they all appreciate that the robot is taking a job that they didn't want to do," he said.

That's helping solve an issue health care is not alone in facing: a short workforce.

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"We thought about doing volunteers, but same thing, volunteers are humans. They're hard to get ahold of, they're not always reliable and consistent," said Laura Templin-Howk, senior lab manager at the Hutchinson and Olivia laboratories. "And Spencer's just sitting there waiting for us, so 24/7 he's there and he's available for us."

He's waiting, and ready for his next trip down the hall.

"He is efficient, he's safe, he's secure. Once things are put in nobody else can get them," Hanson said.

Hutchinson Health brought the community together to help name the robot staff member. 

His name is a portmanteau of "specimen" and "dispenser."

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