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Neuro ICU physicians use first mobile robot for night rounds

Finding a neurologist at 10 p.m. just got easier.

The Neuro Intensive Care Unit on 8 Saperstein has Cedars-Sinai's first mobile robot, which allows physicians to remotely perform rounds, assist residents and communicate with patients' families when they aren't at the medical center.

Designed by InTouch Technologies, the RP-7 robot is 200 pounds, 5 feet 7 inches tall and, if you are a sci-fi fan, resembles a Dalek from "Doctor Who" but for the monitor on its top.

Physicians use a joystick in their home or office to maneuver the robot around the unit. A camera atop the robot is sensitive enough to detect pupil dilation, and there is an attached stethoscope that a nurse can place on the patient allowing the physician to check vital signs. The physician's face appears on a monitor, and there is a phone handset that allows people to speak with the physician.

David Palestrant, M.D., director of both Neuro-Critical Care and the Cedars-Sinai Stroke Program, is one of the physicians using the robot. He said the robot allows them to extend the Neuro ICU staffing while still maintaining quality care. He and others use the RP-7 between 9 and 11 p.m. nearly every night.

"The technology and optics are amazing," he said. "You can literally focus on a patient¿s pupil from across the room. You can observe the neurological exam, auscultate, review vitals, read charts, speak to patients and then discuss the case with the nurses and physicians. The only thing you can't do is touch the patient."

The robot's "feet" are three spherical wheels, which allow for maneuverability. There are sensors around the base to prevent it from bumping into things as the physician moves it around the unit.

"It takes about an hour to get used to moving the robot, then it is really easy to use," Dr. Palestrant said. "We can drive it right into the patients' rooms and up to their bedsides."

Dr. Palestrant, shown on the monitor, visits a Neuro ICU patient as he does rounds using the RP-7 robot.