Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Rural Kansas hospitals use specialized robots, at $50,000 apiece, to deal with doctor shortages

Some rural hospitals in Kansas have found a way to make up for a shortage of doctors bu using robots tho assist with various procedures "including emergency room stroke treatment, dermatology and specialty pediatrics," Mike Shields reports for the Kansas Health Institute. The robots can also connect "distant doctors with patients and local medical providers in real time via a high-definition mobile visual display that includes various monitoring and imaging attachments such as a digital stethoscope." (Hamilton County Hospital photo)

Robots have been a lifesaver for businesses such as Syracuse-based Hamilton County Hospital, which in June 2013 lacked a single doctor and was on the brink of closing, Shields writes. Since adding a robot the hospital has seen a 40 percent growth in patients.

The University of Kansas Hospital is also working with facilities to help stroke doctors connect with patients via the robots, Shields writes. KU spokesman Tony Nunn said "doctors will be available around the clock for remote consultations" and will be able to link to the robot using an iPad or computer. Nunn told Shields, “It’s like ‘The Jetsons’ on steroids."

The robots are created by California-based InTouch Health, which states it serves more than 1,000 hospitals worldwide. Twenty Kansas facilities currently use robots, and 10 more expected to begin using them by next month, Shields writes. But the cost is steep—around $50,000 per robot. Hamilton County chief executive Bryan Coffey has been so impressed by his robot that he wrote an article offering suggestions about how small hospitals can find the funds to afford robots. (Read more)

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