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Robot to help docs consult with patients

SASKATOON - Patrick the robot will soon help doctors in Saskatoon consult with their patients remotely.

The robot is named after 14-year-old Patrick Belsher.

His father Merlis Belsher, a Saskatoon philanthropist, donated $210,000 to make the technology possible at the Royal University Hospital.

The clinical robot will be used on the sixth floor of the hospital by specialists in neurosurgery, followed by emergency and intensive care units.

It was developed in California.

Dr. Ivar Mendez, head of surgery at the Saskatoon Health Region, says the robot won't replace human beings, but it will enhance the ability of a doctor to care for patients.

Sitting at a computer, Mendez can pick a location for Patrick to roam in the hospital.

The robot climbs out of his docking station and rolls down the hospital hallway by himself, waiting for people to pass when they cross paths.

Through the use of a web cam, Mendez can see and hear where Patrick is going while people walking by Patrick can see and hear Mendez.

Patrick pulls up to a nursing station as Mendez zooms in on a medical chart and chats with one of the staff members behind the desk.

“The nurses have many, many patients and sometimes they take time to go from patient to patient. This system will allow that nurse to see several patients in a timely fashion,” says the doctor.

Patrick will help doctors lay eyes on their patients when they are in another part of the hospital or perhaps in a different city altogether.

The technology is so intuitive that it only takes about 10 minutes to learn to use it, Mendez says. He likens the robot to online banking or a cell phone, which was once a foreign and cutting-edge technology but is now widely used and appreciated.

He envisions more robots being used across Saskatchewan to improve health access in the province.

“It’s not the robot that is taking care of (patients), it is their physician, their nurse, using the robot as a medium that is actually taking care of them,” Mendez says.

“This robot can access all electronic health records, all the laboratory records, can access all the imaging records. It’s going to be a hub. Imagine someone who is looking at a patient and needs to know what was their urine analysis or what was their blood sugar?”


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