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A new telemedicine robot housed at Parkland Health Center in Farmington, MO, lets Washington University stroke specialists be “remotely present” when a patient with a suspected stroke comes to the Parkland emergency department. It is the first robot of its kind in use in Missouri. 

The robot lets stroke specialists located at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, 60 miles north of Parkland, work collaboratively and in real time with the Parkland physicians to diagnose stroke patients, begin treatment with the clot-busting drug tPA and arrange for transport to Barnes-Jewish, if needed. 

“For acute stroke care, this may mean faster, more accurate onsite treatment of patients presenting to our partner hospitals,” says Peter Panagos, MD, co-director of the stroke-care team. “This can be especially critical at distant hospitals where transporting the patient to Barnes-Jewish could potentially put the patient outside of the window for treatment with tPA.” 

“It takes about 20 minutes by air and an hour and 15 minutes by ambulance to get to Barnes-Jewish,” says John Hunt, MD, director of emergency medicine at Parkland. “That eats up valuable time. The option to consult with a specialist in real time is very beneficial for our patients.” 

The Parkland robot connects to Barnes- Jewish via wireless Internet, where the Washington University stroke expert is able to maneuver the robot, and a two-way audio/video feed allows the expert and patient to see and hear each other. This lets the stroke specialist conduct his or her own neurological exam and interact directly with the patient, family and local medical staff, Panagos says. In addition, the stroke expert receives real-time feeds of vital signs, test results and imaging. 

“The robot is an effective tool in helping us collaborate with the Parkland emergency staff in getting patients diagnosed and appropriate treatment started as quickly as possible,” says Renee Van Stavern, MD, codirector of the stroke care team. “This just enhances our relationship with Parkland and benefits patients in that area.” 

“The stroke network and the new stroke robot really give the patient the expert evaluation of a Washington University neurologist, without ever having to leave town,” says Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parkland’s emergency department manager. “It is a tremendous advantage to the patient.” 

The Washington University stroke-care team at Barnes-Jewish will be monitoring the pilot program and assessing results. If successful, robots may be placed at other network hospitals in the region.
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