24. juni 2022

Meet the Health Innovators: Yuman


Yuman is on a mission to reduce nurse burnout by bringing robots into the hospitals.

A major challenge that our healthcare system is facing is the shortage of nurses. The healthcare system needs more hands, but it does not necessarily only have to be human hands. If you ask the founders, Sara Lopez Alaguero and Andrei Chirtoaca, robots will soon walk the aisles of the hospitals. Yuman won the Health Innovation Program with their invention of a robot assistant to aid the nurses. They are now collaborating with Bispebjerg Hospital on the next step on their journey; to bring the robot from the lab into the hospital.

Imagine a nurse walking down the hospital aisle with a robot following her every step. It seems futuristic, but it might soon be the reality at the hospitals if Yuman’s mobile robot turns out to be as promising as expected. It all started at DTU, where Sara and Andrei decided to focus on robotics in their entrepreneurial master thesis. After a thorough investigation of different industries and their use of automatization, they realized that there is a huge opportunity and need for robots and automatization in the hospital sector. 

‘We were really passionate about robotics, and we were wondering since the technology is amazing and some people are making robots to climb walls, do backflips, and go underwater, then why don't we see robots just moving around in a corridor?” - Sara

For many years, the hospitals have been trying to adjust or retrofit industrial robots into the hospital interior, but this has turned out to be a failure as they were not built specifically for healthcare tasks and a hospital environment. Also, existing automatization solutions have not included direct interaction with the nurses and have therefore not provided the support and assistance that is so urgently needed to secure enough time for patient care.

Nurses’ little helper/Nurses' aid

The first step for the startup was to truly understand the needs of the nurses and what kind of tasks the robot can take on. The most important task of the nurse is personal interaction, but much of the nurse’s time is spent on routine tasks, taking time from the interaction with patients.

Yuman’s mobile robot is an aid for the nurses; a small robot assistant that will follow them around and automate the transport of small items such as food, medicine, laundry, and blood samples. It can take over the highly repetitive tasks such as going to the local storage or taking out the laundry. This will release the nurses from routine tasks so they can spend more time on patient care, and it will optimize the internal processes, making the workday of the nurse more efficient with a focus on the more relevant and life-saving tasks,

“We are making a mobile robot that can assist nurses and automate the transport of all these small items in the hospital like food, medicine, laundry, and blood samples. You don't actually need a human to do these tasks, which is kind of interesting.”  – Sara

A modular robot design to fit every need

An important part of the solution is to make the robot a practical part of everyday life in the hospital. Not all hospitals have the same needs and that is why Yuman’s goal is to create a modular robot design that can be customized to the individual department,

“We aim to create a modular robot design so that the nurses can use it as they want, they can just customize it based on their needs.”  – Andrei

Every hospital has its own needs, and it is therefore important that the robot can be customized to each specific hospital as well as the geographical layout of the building.

The look and behavior of the robot are also important. They did not want to make another standard robot but wanted it to look friendly and practical and for this, they needed a person with design experience who could make the robot look the way they wanted it to. As a result of the networking sessions in the Health Innovators Program they met Tilla Hasselager, who is an industrial designer with a passion for robotics, and she quickly joined the team to give the robot the makeover it needed. Now they are looking into the modular behavior of the robot, focusing on the end-users and how they need it to behave and what features it needs to have. When both look and behavior are in place, the robot will be ready to meet its new coworkers.

Future of Yuman: From the lab to the hospital

“We're really interested in getting a thorough knowledge of our users and their daily life because we understand that implementing a new solution like this requires a lot of work from their side as well.”

Sara Lopez Alaguero, CEO & Co-founder, Yuman

With the initial funding in place, Yuman has managed to build a prototype, and a newly established collaboration with Nordic Health Lab enables a continuous co-creation of the robot based on feedback from the different hospitals. They are now looking at months of prototyping, operating, and testing, making sure they understand how life in the hospitals works and what tasks the robot can take on,

“We're really interested in getting a thorough knowledge of our users and their daily life because we understand that implementing a new solution like this requires a lot of work from their side as well.” - Sara

They are now putting together a board of advisors and are missing a legal advisor and someone who knows how to sell to hospitals. They encourage everyone, who would like to participate in the co-creation of their product to reach out to them.

How The Health Innovators Program helped Yuman further develop their project

Participating in the Health Innovators Program was highly beneficial for Yuman:

“Every meeting that we had at Sund Hub was like a winning event because every time we got something out of it that was really important to us. Every time it was like a wow moment.” - Sara

The program helped Yuman in more ways than one. By focusing on human perspectives and storytelling, they got the tools to present their project from a human perspective and prioritize usage rather than technology. The program also helped expand their team with the addition of a member, Tilia, who provided needed skills to the team emphasizing the importance of diversity in skills,

“I think having a diverse team is a good idea because. It's good to have more ways to look at a problem or subject. Everyone comes with another kind of baggage, and they see your problem from a different point of view. So, having that kind of approach to your startup I think is good; making sure that people have different ways of working and ways of thinking” – Sara

Winning the Health Innovators Program

Participating in and winning the Health Innovators Program provided validation from healthcare professionals and experts, who know the needs of Danish healthcare in detail; with that confirmation, Yuman is now ready to take their prototype robot from the lab to the hospital.

Yuman has shown an impressive understanding of their user perspectives. This was the core reason why they were selected as winners of the Health Innovators Program by a strong panel consisting of Brian Holch Kristensen, Chief Innovation Officer at Bispebjerg Hospital, Kasper Gubba Ørtenblad, Innovation consultant and former biotech entrepreneur, and Nina Brocks from Copenhagen Health Innovation. 

The panel congratulated Sara, Tilia, and Andrei on working directly in the hospital and understanding every single step of the workflow for the end-user. This collaborative mindset is key to innovation and is essential for developing solutions for a hospital. Understanding the end-user will essentially create better innovations that have the potential for creating lasting impact.

Get in touch

If you have an interest in this project, you can get it touch with the team: 

  • Sara Lopez Alaguero, CEO & Co-founder, Honors MSc. in Computer Science and Engineering, DTU: sara@yuman-robots.dk 
  • Andrei Chirtoaca, CTO & Co-founder, MSc. in Computer Science and Engineering, DTU: andrei@yuman-robots.dk 
  • Tilia Lind Hasselager, CDO, MA in Industrial Design, The Royal Danish Academy: tilia@yuman-robots.dk