Health Team

Robots deliver medicine across N.C.

Posted March 19, 2010

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— Your next doctor might be a robot.

RP-7, Intouch Health's telemedicine robot, is catching the eyes of visitors at the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science in Durham. It will be part of the "Robot Rumble" event Saturday.

"We have robot hockey taking place, autonomous robots, water marine robots," museum spokeswoman Taneka Bennet said.

RP-7 is also helping bring expert neurological advice to three small community hospitals in North Carolina. Neurologist Dr. Charles Tegeler operates the robots from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.

"We're trying to leverage technology to be able to bring stroke consultations, bring stroke expertise out to the smaller facilities," Tegeler said.

Many rural hospitals don't have a neurologist on staff to make critical decisions about giving stroke patients timely medication to dissolve a clot in the brain. RP-7 allows Tegeler to take long-distance calls about those stroke patients.

"I can plug in and get online and beam into the network hospital," he said.

Sometimes the hospital staff may be too busy to lead him around.

"If they just say, 'You know, we have this patient down in Room 2,' I drive it right down to the bed side," Tegeler said.

With a robotic stethoscope, he can listen to a patient's heartbeat. Rather than just talk to doctors or patients on the phone, he can see them face-to-face.

"I can look at the expressions on their face. I can listen to how they're talking," Tegeler said. "That allows me to use those years of experience to actually help make better decisions."


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