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MU players meet medical robot

Jul. 25, 2013 @ 08:22 AM

HUNTINGTON — H.A.T.T.I.E. won’t need season tickets, but surely she’s a Marshall fan after Wednesday afternoon.

Members of the Marshall University football team visited St. Mary’s on Wednesday and were introduced to H.A.T.T.I.E., which stands for Highly Advanced Technology That Improves Efficiency, a telemedicine robot found in only eight hospitals nationwide.

The RP-VITA model is the first FDA-approved telemedicine robot with AutoDrive technology. In short, that means the robot can drive itself from room to room and connect patient to doctor across town or across the country.

“It helps the physicians extend their reach,” said Christy Franklin, director of St. Mary’s Regional Neuroscience Center and Regional Orthopedic Center. “Now they can do routine rounding and can respond to calls in the emergency department even when they can’t be here.”

Sandra Napier, nurse liaison for telehealth, said the technology, which uses the robot on-site and Wi-Fi access through a smartphone or desktop application, is just like having a physician with his hands in his pockets. St. Mary’s added a second telemedicine robot to its medical center in May.

“The robot is designed for the physician to see the patient in real-time. They can see their vital signs and X-rays. They can hear a patient’s heartbeat over the internet,” Napier said. “If there is a patient who is really sick or they believe has just suffered an acute stroke or has a collapsed lung, a physician can get online wherever he is, as long as he has internet capability, and examine and diagnose them immediately.”

H.A.T.T.I.E., named in a contest by St. Mary’s employee Angela Roberts, features 120x zoom which allows physicians to see things as detailed as a patient’s eyelashes and gives them face-to-face access to staff, patients and family members. Because the robot is equipped with infrared and sonar technology, it can memorize its surroundings and avoid obstacles while moving from room to room in the intensive care unit.

Napier said the device is being successfully used at larger hospitals, including Duke University where a physician who recently moved to Paris, France, is still able to complete nightly rounds to check in on patients.

Locally, in areas of Appalachia that are medically unserved and underserved, physicians or specialists could use the device to see patients at more than one clinic in a given afternoon. Napier said it also can be used for physician oversight of residents and medical students when off-site, and during off-hours when a physician can’t be present.

“Patients appreciate that they can have a face-to-face conversation with their doctor instead of the nurse having to call the doctor and then relaying the message to the patient,” Napier said. “They forget they’re even using the robot to talk after a while.”

Follow H-D reporter Beth Hendricks on Facebook or Twitter @BethHendricksHD.

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