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Mobile Robots Offer 24/7 Care to Neurosurgical ICU, Stroke Patients

Two nearly 6-foot tall, remote-controlled robots are now on staff at The Methodist Hospital, caring for critically ill patients suffering from stroke or other neurological// problems.

Methodist's neurosurgical-ICU (NICU) and Eddy Scurlock Stroke Center are the first in Houston to use this wireless robotic technology 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.

The 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.

'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.

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.

'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 Stroke Center.

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 received a major grant from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation for this robotic technology.


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