Robots see patients when doctor is out...

If the doctor is out, PinnacleHealth might give you an appointment with a robot

Robot assisted Medicine

By  David Wenner on February 11, 2015 at 4:37 PM, updated February 12, 2015 at 12:12 PM

PinnacleHealth System is using eight robots in situations where time or distance prevent the needed doctor from being in the room.

The robots are equipped with things including powerful cameras which can provide a full view of the patient, or zoom in close enough to even test the reflex of the patient's pupil. They can transmit video and sound to a doctor located elsewhere, and enable the doctor to speak to the patient and attending caregivers, who also can see the doctor.

Dr. Christian Caicedo said such robots are the "future of medicine." Falling under the heading of telemedicine, they will become increasingly necessary as things such as the aging of the baby boomers and more people with health insurance stretch the supply of doctors.

PinnacleHealth has a robot stationed at J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital in Huntingdon County, which is an affiliate of PinnacleHealth, and which is located in a rural area where a specialist such as a neurologist for a stroke patient might not be immediately available. In such cases, the specialist can use the robot to examine and access the patient, and do things such as order medication and tests.

PinnacleHealth is also using robots within its Harrisburg-area facilities in non-urgent instances such as when a specific doctor's expertise is required, but the doctor's physical presence is not. Caicedo, an emergency room doctor and medical director of West Shore Hospital, said a robot can allow a doctor to see several patients when, because of time and distance, the doctor could otherwise see only one.

However, Caicedo said the intent isn't to replace face-to-face patient care with robots, and called robots "an augmentation, not a substitute." He said doctor-patient interaction will remain the "ultimate" form of medical care. "This is not going to replace me at the bedside," he said.

PinnacleHealth has several versions of robots, including one that is self-propelled, and can be moved via remote control. Or tracks can be placed on the floor to guide the robot from a storage area to patient care areas. Doctors can control the robot and interact with the patient via computer, pad or smartphone.


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