Robot Tele-rounding in the NICU

In the next study, the robot will allow moms to see their newborns

LOS ANGELES – It looks a bit like a scene out of “The Jetsons.”  While robots have been used for doctors to "round" or check up on adults recovering in hospital rooms, researchers at Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles wanted to see if the care from a doctor-run robot was any different for its tiniest patients.

Three-year-old twins Kristina and Adrian Rubel are full of energy now, but they started life in neonatal intensive care at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. Their doctor was unconventional.

Alex Rubel, the twins’ dad, told Ivanhoe, “You see it doing rounds by itself. It looks weird, but it’s a doctor.”

Neonatologist, Paige Jackson, MD, controls the robot from Children’s Hospital LA, across the street. She was part of the robot tele-rounding study.

Dr. Jackson told Ivanhoe, “The goal of it really was to see if we could provide some of the specialty services that we have here in places that are not here.”

The study found babies did equally well, whether the doctor was working through the robot or in the unit.

Parents, like Tika Wilson, whose twin girls are here, liked it.

“It’s the doctor, so it’s still a person. That’s the thing that I like. If it were just a robot and you couldn’t see the face and that wasn’t an actual person behind it, then I think I’d be like- that’s kind of crazy.”

In the next study, the robot will allow moms to see their newborns, if they can’t physically be there.

Children’s Hospital researchers see great potential in the robot technology. It could bring specialists like Dr. Jackson into hospitals that don’t have the finances, space or consistent demand for services.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Cortni Spearman, Assistant Producer; Brent Sucher, Editor; and Rusty Reed, Videographer.