Friday, December 19, 2014     Volume: 15, Issue: 41
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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 29th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 21 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 21

Dignity Health teams up with other hospitals through telemedicine

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM


iROBOT
Emergency Services Physician Chuck Merrill and Emergency Services Monitor Technician Keenan Rodarte discuss a patient’s status as they await a physician to be beamed in on the telemedicine robot.
PHOTO COURTESY OF DIGNITY HEALTH CENTERS

Telemedicine robots are now roaming the halls of Dignity Health’s three Central Coast hospitals: Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, and Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria.

Dignity Health Marketing Specialist Sara San Juan said the 6-foot-tall iRobots decked out in pearly white, chrome, and black are stationary unless they’re needed. Bots are booted into action in very special circumstances, such as when a potential stroke victim comes into the emergency room.

Chuck Merrill, an ER physician at Marian who also happens to be vice president of Medical Programs, said he’s recently used Marian’s bot to interface with a Sacramento-based neurologist and diagnose a stroke. The patient was given medication to help break up a blood clot and rushed to another hospital for surgery.

“We want to make that decision quickly,” Merrill said. “We don’t need it for every patient, we just need it for the complicated ones.”

Each robot has a computer screen at its head that serves a function similar to Facetime for iPhones, but they’re not in operation all the time. Marian is able to contact neurologists and neuroscientists at other Dignity Health centers via the robot, and gain access to high-level academic consultations without having to travel to places like Stanford or Los Angeles.

“The doctor on the other end appears on the computer screen and can actually talk and ask questions of the patient and doctors,” Merrill said. “And they can actually examine patients that way.”

Merrill said the telemedicine robots are not meant to replace physical doctors, but are meant to help under time-sensitive circumstances when more expertise is needed than what can be found at a community hospital.

Dignity Health Centers of the Central Coast introduced its robots to the media on July 23, and also announced that it’s going to collaborate with Stanford on a neuroscience program.