The city of Craigavon in Northern Ireland is synonymous with “new” because it was built from scratch in the 1960s to lure business away from Belfast. It’s Northern Ireland’s equivalent of Portland, Oregon, with greenways and bike paths abounding. Perhaps that’s why Craigavon was receptive to another great innovation: remote presence technology.
The RP-7 serving Craigavon Area Hospital is the UK’s first telemedicine robot – and it’s helping improve care at Daisy Hill Hospital 20 miles away.
It’s part of a new healthcare blueprint called “Transforming Your Care” compiled by John Compton, CEO of Northern Ireland’s Health & Social Care board. This forward-looking plan aims to dramatically improve “high dependency care” for patients who are very ill but not quite ICU material. And that’s where the RP-7 comes in.
Dr. Charles McAllister and other intensivists at Craigavon are using the RP-7 to closely monitor patients in Daisy Hill’s 10-bed high dependency unit. That means that fewer of them need to be transported to the Craigavon ICU.
Dr. Shane Moan at Daisy Hill was skeptical at first, but now he’s a big fan of remote presence technology. “You can get a huge amount of information from the robot,” he says. “You get realtime information from the monitor, and you can see the patient up close in high definition. You can also listen to the patient’s lungs and heart through a stethoscope at the back of the robot.”
Dr. McAllister reports that patients have quickly warmed to the RP-7. “They understand that having an intensivist virtually at the bedside is a real benefit to them,” he said.
“The remote presence robot is at the cutting edge of innovation in our health service,” says health minister Edwin Poots. “And it makes the best use of our health resources.”
Northern Ireland’s population is aging, and remote presence helps deliver the highest quality care while keeping transport to a minimum. It’s probably just a matter of time until local celebrities like 67-year-old rock legend Van Morrison start using it.
To see BBC coverage of the remote presence intensivists care at Daisy Hill Hospital, click here.