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New emergency room robot cares for kids at Children's National Hospital

Children's National introduced a new robot to its Emergency Department (ED) for patients under evaluation for a COVID infection or being treated for other conditions

Robot with video screen with Doctor talking to patients remotely

Children and families who come in to the emergency room at Children’s National Hospital may be surprised when their doctor comes in – in the form of a robot. Children’s National introduced a new robot to its Emergency Department (ED). It will be used for patients under evaluation for a COVID infection or being treated for other conditions. The robot – part of the FCC-funded COVID-19 Telehealth Program at Children’s National – is the latest innovation of the program that has grown due to the ongoing pandemic. 

“The robot can move in and out of spaces that otherwise we couldn’t get a significant number of providers in, especially with COVID-19 restrictions in place,” said Shireen Atabaki, M.D., M.P.H., associate medical director of Telemedicine, emergency medicine physician and program director for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program at Children’s National. “This is a really exciting program. It implements innovation that we might not have been able to do without the insights we’ve gained from the pandemic.”

Some features of the new robot: 

  • It is Wi-Fi-enabled. 
  • It’s remotely controlled by the doctor providing the teleconsultation. 
  • It monitors patient vitals including heart rate, body temperature or respiration rate. 
  • It allows doctors to work virtually with their team giving flexibility to see patients faster. 

“The pandemic made us aware of the need to protect patients, families and staff from infectious diseases,” said Alejandro Jose Lopez-Magallon, M.D., medical director of Telemedicine at Children’s National. The robot spares clinicians from having to change their PPE. This, in turn, saves time. It also gives them the ability to move on to the next patient while nurses and staff continue to provide bedside care.

“We have seen that, in a paradoxical way, our patients may be more accepting of seeing a face on a screen that’s not covered with a mask and shield,” Dr. Lopez-Magallon added.

Soon, the robot will also be used to coordinate subspecialty care – such as cardiac care – in the ED. This will provide more streamlined and expedited care for patients. Instead of leaving with a referral to set up a follow-up appointment with a specialist, patients will be able to receive the consult they need during the same appointment.

The team at Children’s National recently piloted using Zoom on an iPad and other technology purchased with the FCC funds. This was done to remotely connect family members with patients.

“We are looking to implement this as a permanent solution keeping in mind how burdensome and emotionally stressful it has been for many not having the ability to be by the loved one’s side during such a challenging time,” Dr. Atabaki said. 

The FCC funds also covered the telehealth carts, tablets and other connected devices, the telehealth platform, telehealth equipment and innovative AI (augmented intelligence) to treat seriously ill COVID-19 pediatric patients. 

The emergency department robot brings the robot-fleet at Children’s National up to three. The first robot was debuted in 2019 to serve children and families in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit

VIDEO: B-roll of the ED robot can be found here.

Media contact: Ariana Perez | 202-476-4500

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