New Hampshire hospital using robots to keep patients connected, reduce COVID-19 exposure

The Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon, N.H., is utilizing remote-controlled robots that deliver iPads to patients for telehealth and communication purposes — an effort that has helped limit physician and patient exposure to COVID-19 and preserves personal protective equipment. 

The battery-powered robot can enter patient rooms on its own and delivers an iPad on a stand. This reduces the need for staff members to go into patient rooms in full PPE simply to deliver the tablet, thus helping to preserve resources. 

"As we were preparing for a possible surge in COVID-19 patients in palliative care, we kept coming back to how we could protect the ability of patients, families and care teams to communicate with one another," said Meredith MacMartin, MD, medical director at Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Jack Byrne Center for Palliative & Hospice Care. "Keeping lines of communication open is critical to the emotional support for sick patients, but also to help the people caring for them to know and understand the patient, what's important to them, and what their life is like outside of the hospital — information that is especially important during discharge planning or when medical decisions must be made."

The robots were created by a team of local engineers and volunteers, including students from the Hartford (Vt.) Area Career and Technology Center's First Robotics Competition Team. 

Dartmouth-Hitchcock plans to expand the use of the robots and incorporate them into other areas of the hospital, including the emergency department. 


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