Friday, March 2, 2007

The Future is Here

When I was first practicing medicine, the cell phone had not yet been invented. There was no such thing as a calling card. I had to have dimes and quarters with me at all times and I knew where every phone booth was located from Marin to San Francisco. If my beeper went off, I needed to be prepared to find a pay phone quickly so I could phone the patient or hospital. Often I needed to turn my car around and head back to the city. It sounds like the dark ages, but it wasn't so long ago. My how times have changed!

The "new new thing" in patient care is robots. This new technology allows physicians to hook up their laptop anywhere and see a patient at a distant hospital. A growing number of doctors are using robotics to connect with patients and their high-tech circuitry lets a stethoscope be attached so a doctor can hear some one's heart from a remote location. These machines are dispatched to emergency departments, operating rooms and intensive care units.

About 100 robots are in use at 60 hospitals nationwide and the trend is growing. A computer screen shows the face of the physician atop a 5 foot machine while the doctor operates the rolling robot with a joystick via computer from another location. One physician has shown x-rays to patients on the screen where the face usually is and reportedly, patients are very satisfied that they are getting information from their own physician. Digital cameras capture real-time video of the patient.

"I don't think this robot can be viewed as a replacement for a human being, however, this may be one more tool we have to extend and improve health care delivery to our patients", said Li-Ming Su, MD, director of laparoscopic and robotic urologic surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. American Medical News.

This new technology could be a godsend to rural communities where specialists are scarce. Undoubtedly more uses will be found for these links, like access to instant interpreters for emergency departments and the ability to assess patients immediately if they have a change in medical condition. In November 2006, the Michigan Stroke Network introduced robots that let participating hospitals in the state call stroke specialists at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland hospital in Pontiac, Michigan. One patient experienced the robot who came to her bedside and said "You look great". She remarked "I'd rather see a robot than nobody at all."

Now your doctor can see you whenever you wish...from just about anywhere.

1 comment:

lrgordon said...

This is important!

How can an individual access espertise - robot. That is aslong as expert will submit themselves to robotic medicine.

I appreciate your awareness and information on this one!

:)Linda