Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Robot Helps Stroke Patients

Neurologists at the University of Virginia Health System are learning to maneuver a robot over a wireless network using a laptop and a control stick. The robot known as the Remote Presence Robotic System (RP-7) will allow the doctors at UVA to communicate with doctors at the rural 25 bed Bath Community Hospital in Hot Springs to help stroke patients.

Dr. Nina Solenski, a Neurologist in the Primary Stroke Center at the UVA Health System and UVA’s Project Officer for the newly launched Virginia Acute Stroke Tele-Health Network (VAST) initiative is testing the effectiveness of the robot to help.

RP-7 is five feet six inches tall and has a flat panel head and camera lens eyes. As the robot moves and does the work, the face of the person at the controls is projected on the flat panel display. The robot’s camera and speakers function as eyes and ears, notes Dr. Solenski.

The project was funded by a $1.3 million grant from the National Office of Rural Health Policy. The program is testing a variety of health information technologies to see if they give rural critical access hospitals quicker and improved access to stroke experts at the regional hospitals and to other healthcare providers. Implementation of VAST was made possible by a partnership of the Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia Stroke System Task Force and the Virginia Telehealth Network.

The robot is also being used in Kentucky. A physician at the University of Louisville Hospitals is now connecting to the robot via the internet and consulting and interacting with a patient and their family at T.J Sampson Community Hospital in Glasgow. Bill Edwards, Director of T.J. Samson’s emergency room said “it allows us to have services that would otherwise not be available here. It’s not likely that we would have a world famous stroke neurologist move to Glasgow and be able to practice here, so this gives us a service that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.”

Just recently to update the robot, InTouch Health signed an agreement with Neurostar Solutions Inc. to integrate NSI’s clinical imaging management application into the RP-7 robotic system. This clinical imaging management application now enables consulting physicians to have up-to-the-minute information plus access to the patient’s imaging information.