Robots, telemedicine, and more: How hospitals are leveraging tech to limit coronavirus exposure

April 1, 2020

Photo by Adrienn from Pexels

This article originally appeared on The Advisory Board website

Hospitals use robots to talk with patients, disinfect rooms

As the global case count continues to rise, providers have turned to innovative technologies to help treat patients with the virus and limit potential exposure.

For instance, doctors at Providence Regional Medical Center in Washington used Vici, a robot that essentially is a tablet on wheels, to communicate with patients diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

According to Forbes, hospitals in China similarly are using robots to deliver food and medical supplies to patients with suspected and confirmed cases of the virus, as well as robots that collect patients' trash and used bed sheets.

Axios reports that hundreds of hospitals already use robots to disinfect medical rooms and kill germs and pathogens like MRSA that can cause infections. For instance, one robot from Xenex uses pulsed xenon UVC light to eliminate pathogens. According to Axios, Xenex's robot is used in more than 500 hospitals around the world to help reduce hospital associated infections.

And while the device hasn't officially been tested against the new coronavirus, Melinda Hart, a spokesperson for the company, said the company is fielding calls on how and if the robot can be used to clean COVID-19 patients' rooms.

"Our science team has been on the phone nonstop with hospitals to discuss protocols for disinfecting rooms and areas where suspect patients have been and are being treated," Hart said.

In addition, to disinfecting and communicating with patients, hospitals in China are using an artificial intelligence system created by Infervision to identify cases of the virus among CT images of patients' lungs. According to MedCity News, "[t]he hope is by diagnosing cases more quickly, health care workers can limit their exposure to the virus."

Hospitals rely on telemedicine to slow virus' spread

Hospitals also are turning to telemedicine to help limit exposure to the virus and contain its spread.

CDC has suggested that providers first evaluate patients with suspected cases of the virus remotely instead of having them come to the hospital, and some clinicians, hospitals, and health care insurers are telling patients with mild symptoms to conduct their initial doctors' visits via phone, video, and secure messaging.

Robert Wyllie, chief of medical operations at the Cleveland Clinic, said doctors at the hospital have used video visits to screen potentially infected patients before they arrive at the doctor's office, urgent care center, or ED "to sit in a waiting room and potentially infect other patients."

Similarly, Providence—which operates 51 hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center, and 1,000 clinics—plans to use chatbots to direct patients to appropriate care in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Read the full article here.

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