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TRH has access to robotic physician technology

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By Cindy Rose

University of Louisville Health Care and Taylor Regional Hospital of Campbellsville have announced the development of an agreement to place a remote physician presence robot that will expand the delivery of specialized health care to patients in the Taylor Regional Hospital's service area.

The agreement is a part of U of L Health Care's growing Central and Western Kentucky Initiative.

>On Nov. 19, Taylor Regional decided to add the resources of the region's leading academic medical center, U of L Health Care (which is comprised of University of Louisville's Health Sciences Center, University of Louisville Hospital and University Physicians Associates), to its existing line of patient services.

The remote physician presence robot network is one aspect of the Central and Western Kentucky initiative, which is designed to extend U of L Health Care's capacity in a cooperative and complementary fashion improving patient access to a wider range of specialists, technologies and services. The program is designed as a partnership with regional health centers that will create better diagnoses, allow patients to remain in their regions where appropriate and create a direct access to treatments in Louisville's health care community.

The RP-7 Robot (invented, designed and manufactured by InTouch Health, Santa Barbara, Calif.) through the use of a secured wireless, broadband Internet connection, can provide physician care to patients in another location. Within moments of a request for a medical consultation, a U of L Health Care physician, seated at a computer control station (either at home, office, airport terminal, or anywhere in the world that has a wireless connection) connects via the Internet to the RP-7 Robot located in the Taylor Regional's Emergency Room to consult on the patient.

Through the robot (which stands 5 feet, 6 inches tall), a doctor can interact and converse with a patient, patient's family, physician or nurse through a live, two-way audio and video. Using a joystick, the camera and the guidance of 360-degree infrared sensors, the physician can maneuver the robot through the hospital to a patient's bedside and move the robot's head to view vital signs on monitors and charts. The physician drives the robot through remote access, and the robot is almost self sufficient; the only thing it needs assistance with is plugging in to recharge the robot's battery.

Taylor Regional's stroke patients will be the first to benefit. Taylor Regional's Emergency Department will now be assisted by U of L's nationally renowned neurology physicians, specializing in stroke, movement disorders (including Parkinson's disease) and other subspecialties of neurology.

"Taylor Regional's mission is to provide excellent patient care using the latest available medical technology," said Jane Wheatley, Taylor Regional Hospital CEO. "U of L Health Care's remote presence physician robot will become an important component to our delivery of care. We will now be able to offer the community the highly specialized resources of U of L Health Care physicians any time for every patient."

With a national specialized physician shortage that is often more pronounced outside metropolitan areas, U of L Health Care is poised to help provide a solution to Kentucky's problem with an innovative solution.

U of L Health Care's robot network will provide the highly specialized expertise and support resources of the U of L medical faculty to outlying hospitals via a remote controlled robot. The network is the first of its kind in Kentucky, and will provide quality medical care to hospitals in Central and Western Kentucky in a way that will bring together the capacity at regional hospitals and those of the University Health Sciences Center.

Taylor Regional joins Owensboro Medical Health System and Spring View Hospital Administration of Lebanon in the program.