'Robodoc' makes his rounds

Robot allows doctors to interact with patients in Folsom from far away
By: Don Chaddock/The Telegraph
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Stroke victims can get attention much faster thanks to a new robot named “Elliott.” Mercy Hospital in Folsom is the first in the Sacramento region the use the new telemedicine technology, according to Dr. Asim Mahmood. “When a stroke happens, time is critical and patients need treatment as quickly as possible,” said Mahmood, Mercy’s regional medical director of neurovascular medicine and neurology. “The telemedicine program allows Mercy stroke specialists to evaluate a patient in a matter of minutes and that access to care could be life-saving.” The robot was unveiled Friday at the hospital’s emergency department. Dr. John Schafer, a neurologist who is part of the Mercy Neurological Institute, said the robot is a valuable diagnostic tool. “Some hospitals have a 24-hour-a-day stroke team, but not all do,” he said. Schafer said it’s important that patients who have suffered a stroke are properly diagnosed and quickly treated. The robot allows a doctor located miles away to examine a patient when first brought into Folsom’s emergency room. A video screen positioned on top of the robot’s body displays an image of the doctor. Cameras mounted above the screen are the robot’s eyes, giving the doctor a view of the patient. “If I’m at home at 2 a.m. and get a call, I can open this laptop and operate the robot,” Schafer said. Mahmood said the robot will give Folsom access to the neurological institute, a team of neurologists at Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento and Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Carmichael. The laptop is equipped with a joystick, allowing the doctor to operate the robot remotely. During this Friday demonstration, Schafer stayed in the lobby while he steered the robot to another wing of the hospital and gave a mock examination. Schafer spoke to the patient, asked her questions and tested her motor skills with the help of a nurse. Don Hudson, president of Mercy Hospital at Folsom, thanked the Elliott Family Foundation for their donation that allowed the hospital to purchase the equipment. “Due to the philanthropic generosity of the Elliott family, this robot enables us to continue giving quality care, close to home,” he said. The family donated $500,000 to the Mercy Hospital Foundation for the robot, which was named after the family. Roxanne Elliott, administrator for her family’s foundation, said her grandmother passed away due to complications of stroke. “My grandmother, Margaret Elliott, would have been so proud to see what the foundation has accomplished,” she said. “Unfortunately, in the 1990s, her health deteriorated after a series of strokes. She died in 2004.” Elliott said prompt and effective treatment is necessary to save stroke patients. “If the technology had been around a decade or so ago, she might be here in the audience today,” she said. Brian Spickard, chief operating officer of Elliott Homes and Roxanne Elliott’s uncle, said the robot would help save lives. “Someone dies every four seconds from stroke,” Spickard said. “If you’re properly diagnosed and treated in the first three hours, your chances of survival (are high).” For the photo gallery, see Don Chaddock may be reached at