Stroke patients in Tallaght Hospital are now receiving treatment at the hands of a remote presence (RP7) robot doctor currently on trial in the hospital. This is the first of its kind in Ireland.
The RP7 device would be used primarily in the accident and emergency department of the hospital. The robot would allow stroke specialists to examine patients from a remote location, via a laptop; to see and talk to the patient; observe and help conduct the assessment; view CT images and lab results and make urgent treatment decisions with fewer delays.
The RP7, which is controlled by the doctor through a joystick to change its vantage point, if needed, uses high-resolution cameras to link specialists with the patient over a broadband connection.
Treating stroke patients is time-sensitive, as studies have shown that some patients have a better chance of making a reasonable recovery if a clot-busting drug is administered within a three-hour window. If a stroke specialist is not available in that timeframe, the prognosis for patients can be worsened.
“Strokes happen at all hours of the night, 24/7, at weekends and on bank holidays, and one of the challenges we have is how do we give this treatment and make it available in every accident and emergency department that is receiving stroke patients?” said Dr Ronan Collins, geriatrician and stroke specialist at Tallaght Hospital.
If funding for the device is approved by an innovation grant from the HSE, it will then enable stroke specialists within the Dublin/mid-Leinster stroke network to gain access to specialists around the clock. This network includes Mullingar, Naas, Tullamore and Portlaoise hospitals.
The network aims to provide a comprehensive holistic stroke care pathway for all patients from primary prevention to acute thrombolysis (clot busting), from multidisciplinary rehabilitation to continuing secondary prevention and care after stroke in all settings.
The RP7 is not limited to just stroke treatment. Dr Collins explained that it could be used for everything from paediatric care to vascular surgery.
Studies in the US into patient acceptability have shown that patients felt the care provided through the device was at least as good as that provided by a stroke specialist in person.