WiFi-enabled robots join hospital staff

It is one thing to use WiFi at a coffee shop to look at the latest football scores, and it is another to use the technology to save lives. Houston's Methodist Hospital has two new staff members: 6-foot tall, WiFi-enabled, remote-controlled robots. The robots have been assigned to care for critically ill patients suffering from stroke or other neurological problems. 

The Remote Presence technology used at Methodist's neurosurgical-ICU and Eddy Scurlock Stroke Center is part of a broader patient safety and quality care initiative at the medical center. The robots are named MURDOC (Mobile Unit Robot Doctor) and ROHAS (Remote Operated Health Assessment System). They travel at up to 2 mph, can be steered down a hallway or alongside a patient bed, and are equipped with infrared sensors to help the physician navigate. "Having the ability to see our patients and the ICU nursing staff and talk with them face to face when we can't be there in person greatly impacts how we're able to provide individualized treatment," said Dr. Saleem Zaidi, neuro-intensivist director in Methodist's NICU.

Physicians or nurses down the hall, on another floor, or even at home can use a laptop and joystick to guide the robot to the patient's bedside, review medical chart information, and speak with patients and nurses. Through a widescreen, two-way TV monitor, the doctor communicates with the patient and nurse face to face to determine the appropriate and immediate care needed. Time is often of the essence. "Our window of opportunity for effective treatment is within three hours of the onset of stroke symptoms. This robotic technology gives us quicker access to the patients, and timeliness is everything in helping a stroke patient recover," said Dr. David Chiu, medical director of the Eddy Scurlock Stroke Center.

The robots are made by Santa Barbara, California-based InTouch Health. 

For more on the hospital robots:
- see InTouch Health press release

ALSO: NEC is showing its rather homely looking R100 WiFi-capable robot; the robot can flip TV channels for you, and also, after some programming, greet users by name, ask what it can do to help out and read your email. Review