Roaming robots give doctors remote access to hospital patients 24/7
29 November 2006
The Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas has two
robots that can be controlled remotely by a doctor to navigate wards and
communicate with patients and staff on wards where rapid access to expert
advice is critical.
blue and black robots, nicknamed MURDOC (Mobile Unit Robot Doctor) and ROHAS
(Remote Operated Health Assessment System), travel up to 2 mph, can be
easily steered down a hallway or alongside a patient bed, and are equipped
with infrared sensors to help the physician navigate. The robots allow
physicians, patients, nurses and other staff to “virtually” interact and
talk at a moment’s notice.
From a remote location, even from home, a
physician uses a laptop and joystick to guide the robot to the patient’s
bedside, review medical chart information and speak with patients and
nurses. Through a widescreen, two-way TV monitor, the doctor communicates
with the patient and nurse face to face to determine the appropriate and
immediate care needed. The ability to address patient care on a moment’s
notice is especially helpful for treating acute stroke patients.
Methodist Hospital’s neurosurgical-ICU (NICU) and Eddy Scurlock Stroke
Center are using the robots to help provide 24/7 coverage for patients,
giving them immediate access to a physician. The Remote Presence technology
is part of a larger patient safety and quality initiative within The
Methodist Hospital System.
A doctor visits an ICU patient via the robot
“Having the ability to see
our patients and the ICU nursing staff and talk with them face to face when
we can’t be there in person greatly impacts how we’re able to provide
individualized treatment,“ said Dr. Saleem Zaidi, neuro-intensivist director
in Methodist’s NICU.
“Our window of opportunity for effective treatment is within three hours of
the onset of stroke symptoms. This robotic technology gives us quicker
access to the patients, and timeliness is everything in helping a stroke
patient recover,” said Dr. David Chiu, medical director of the Eddy Scurlock
The robots do not replace physicians seeing patients in
person. Instead, they supplement physician visits for those times when they
cannot be present, especially during the overnight shifts. Methodist hopes
to expand this robotic technology to other locations within the hospital and
throughout the Methodist System.
The robots are made by Santa Barbara,
California-based InTouch Health. Methodist Hospital received a major grant
from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation for this robotic technology.