Robot ‘Doctor’ Tends to St. Charles Patients

New Telemedicine Assistant on Job in Redmond

There’s a new way for Central Oregon doctors to take care of their patients without even being in the hospital. St. Charles Medical Center-Redmond recently bought a telemedicine robot, and on Wednesday, they trained their staff using a mock patient.

A doctor evaluated his patient from miles away, as he told the nurse to place a stethoscope on the left side of her chest.

The new robot is nicknamed RODA (for Robotic Office Diagnostic Assistant), and employees watched it in action and asked several questions.

“The nurse is with them, who can place the stethoscope so they can hear lung function, and some of the assessment skills,” nurse Emilie Bonnie said.

A nurse must be in the room to work with the doctor, who appears on a screen, similar to Skype.

The doctor can control the robot with a remote from Bend, guiding the nurse to do certain tasks so he can evaluate the health of his patient.

“We will warn them what they do and how they talk,” said Bonnie. “People who have seen it out in the halls have been quite impressed and stopped to talk to it, because you actually see the face. You see the doctor’s face, and then it’s a little more personal.”

Officials said it will help patients by allowing them to stay in their hospital room, instead of having to be transferred to Bend to see their specialty doctor.

“If you can expand out the doctors that we have, to see more (patients), hopefully that will give care to everyone that might not be able to have it,” Bonnie said. “Because there’s not enough to go around.”

With the new technology in place, health experts said they hope to keep their patients healthy and in a place they’re comfortable.

“They may be able to keep people in their communities and care for them without having to take them somewhere else, where their families are having to drive or relocate, or stay in a motel,” said Bonnie.

RODA cost about $95,000, at a discounted price. St. Charles employees plan to work with their new robot for now, but there is a possibility they could buy more robots in the future.

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