It's been proved in a number of studies that pets lower blood pressure, relieve stress, and generally promote good health in their owners. The studies didn't make it clear if this was the result of petting the animal, simple psychology, or some other reason. This is all well and good, but the people that need it most, in hospitals, are the people who can get it the least. Animals tend to be un-sterile, which is bad for the patients. Animals do things like poop, eat the food (which throws off calculations and spreads bacteria), lick, fight with each other, and hide infections. Not good things to do around someone already fighting an infection. In addition, animal dander allergies may be triggered in people if the animal is so much as in the same room as a shedding animal. A hospital cannot risk it.
Pink Tentacle reports that the Japanese company Paro is donating utterly cute Harp Seal robots to a Danish hospital. The robots are reported to be very lifelike, and don't have the same problems most animals have, because they're robots. The seals have soft white "fur," shiny black eyes, and tiny eyelashes. Tiny whiskers even emerge from the seal's face. These seals will provide companionship, petting opportunities, and are presumably cleanable. I hope they work.
If the seals are successful, perhaps other robot animals may be deployed. Fake dogs, fake cats, even fake birds. All providing comfort to the sick and injured. All being tickled and tickled, then their fur washed when their "master" is asleep. People will recover in comfort and happiness, and have someone to confide in when visiting hours are over. Also, if prices drop low enough, the patients will be able to keep the robot animal after their stay is over.
One last advantage of this is autistic children. It is quite common for autistic people to absolutely adore animals, and they often benefit from the association.