|Mercy Telehealth Network is expanding its robotic program to two more California facilities.|
Used exclusively to treat stroke patients in the emergency room, the robots are 5 feet, 3 inches tall and cylinder-shaped, with large flat-screen monitors where a human's face would be. Neurologists connect to the robot remotely and can both see and talk to the patient through video cameras.
Through the robotic connection, specialists can see patients immediately to determine whether to administer clot-busting drugs, which have only a three-hour window of opportunity to be effective, according to coverage in the Sacramento Business Journal.
"If you're a patient with stroke symptoms, you probably want a stroke expert at your bedside. I can be there within five or 10 minutes [via robot], and it may be a 40-minute drive to that location--or several hours. We are compressing time and space and, in doing so, improving quality of care," Alan Shatzel, medical director of neurology for the Mercy Neurological Institute, which operates the robots, told the Journal.
In some cases, rehab specialists also use the robot to follow up the initial treatment and help stroke patients begin their recovery.
The telehealth network already operates robots in five other California hospitals, and may expand beyond stroke care into critical care, perinatal, trauma, infectious disease, orthopedics, psychiatry and some surgical services, the Journal reports.