UCLA Medical Center becomes first hospital to introduce remote presence robots in ICU

03/10/05

Clinical testing for remote monitoring of intensive care unit patients begins

UCLA Medical Center has announced initial clinical tests of the RP-6 mobile robot system in its neurosurgery intensive care unit (ICU). The RP-6 robot, made by InTouch Health Inc. in Santa Barbara, Calif., allows doctors to "virtually" consult with patients, family members and health care staff at a moment's notice, even if miles away from the hospital.

Intensivists -- the physicians who specialize in the care of critically ill patients -- in the neurosurgery department at UCLA are using RP-6 to provide additional monitoring from their homes and offices of ICU patients in response to studies showing that intensivist presence in the ICU can decrease morbidity, mortality, length of stay and cost of care. The project, to be funded through an assistance agreement with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, located at Ft. Detrick, Md., will be led by professor and Chief of Neurosurgery Dr. Neil Martin, associate professor Dr. Paul Vespa and associate professor Valeriy Nenov, all of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

There is a nationwide shortage of intensivists. There are fewer than 6,000 practicing intensivists in the United States today and more than 5 million patients admitted to ICUs annually. Therefore, only about 37 percent of ICU patients receive intensivist care, yet having trained intensivists in the ICU results in better outcomes and decreased length of stay in the ICU and hospital. These specialists are familiar with complications that may occur and are therefore better able to minimize errors.

UCLA will test the RP-6 robot as a way to extend the reach of the intensivist. The patient sees, hears and interacts with the doctor through the nearly 5-foot-6-inch tall robot, which displays a live video image of the physician's face on its monitor/head. The physician, seated at a computer console called a ControlStation, also sees and hears the patient through a live video image projected on a monitor. The ControlStation comes equipped with a joystick, which allows the physician to drive the robot to the patient's bedside, control movements of the robot's head and even zoom in to take a closer look at the patient or bedside monitors.

"The RP-6 robot will increase doctor access for patients, their families and hospital staff, and UCLA is excited to test the newest addition to our intensive care team" Martin said. "We recognize that leveraging the health care expert's time offers the possibility of improved patient care, reduced length of stay and cost savings. UCLA has combined our in-house electronic medical information system, GCQ, with the RP-6 remote presence system, and we are able to monitor and access our patients anytime from our homes and offices in a way not previously possible."

"The RP-6 robot will increase doctor access for patients, their families and hospital staff, and UCLA is excited to test the newest addition to our intensive care team" Martin said. "We recognize that leveraging the health care expert's time offers the possibility of improved patient care, reduced length of stay and cost savings. UCLA has combined our in-house electronic medical information system, GCQ, with the RP-6 remote presence system and we are able to monitor and access our patients anytime from our homes and offices in a way not previously possible."

Global Care Quest, or GCQ, founded by Martin, Nenov and Farzad Buxey, is a commercially available, remote wireless mobile patient data system developed at UCLA Medical Center.

Patient and family reaction to the robot has been very positive. In a study done by Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md., half the patients preferred a tele-rounding visit by their own doctor to a "real" visit by another physician. And 80 percent of the patients felt that the robot increased physician accessibility.

Dr. Louis Kavoussi, vice chairman of urology at Johns Hopkins Hospital said, "Patients love it! I was very surprised at how much our patients enjoy remote video interactions via the robot."

UCLA is the first hospital to test the RP-6 robot in the ICU, though more than a dozen other institutions are using the robot to provide remote medical expertise in areas such as emergency rooms and patient wards.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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