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Robot Roundup

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, June 28, 2011

"I can do everything but touch the patient," Kathleen Webster, MD, medical director for Loyola University Medical Center's pediatric ICU told me. "I see a lot of the studies that say telemedicine is equivalent to being there. But I actually think there is a case for saying at times telemedicine is better than being there."

Poor robots: They still have to win over federal regulators, providers, and insurers and solve such problems as spotty reimbursement, questions about credentialing and other legal and administrative issues, a sometimes sizeable up-front capital investment unlikely to bring an immediate return, and that they can get concrete evidence that remote care is significantly better than care delivered in person.

Other than that, the robots are good to go.

5 Technologies to Make Surgery Safer: With a dismissive wave at time-outs and checklists, these five technologies include robots that may someday be able to deliver anesthesia remotely. That was in August, 2010—since then, physicians and engineers at McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, Canada, have taken the idea a step further. The team already had an anesthesia robot (nicknamed McSleepy, of course). Next up they developed a remote-control system for intubation in anesthesia. They used the device for the first time on a live patient this spring. Naturally, they videotaped the procedure.

In endotracheal intubation a tube is placed into the windpipe, through the mouth or the nose to deliver oxygen, medication, or anesthesia, and to help with breathing. "We think that The Kepler Intubation System can assist the anesthesiologist's arms and hands to perform manual tasks with less force, higher precision, and safety, said developer Thomas M. Hemmerling, MD, in a media release. "One day, it might actually be the standard practice of airway management."
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