Patients happy with robo-doc

A new study at Johns Hopkins finds that many hospitalized patients prefer visits from their own physician to those of the physicians on duty, even when those "visits" are virtual "telerounds."

Last year, researchers in Hopkins' Department of Urology introduced a robot electronically linked to a physician to augment the rounds physicians make routinely to check on their patients. Vaguely resembling a human torso, in a Star Wars "R2D2" sort of way, the robot sports a computer screen for a head, a video camera for eyes and a speaker for a mouth. It "walks," in a manner of speaking, on three roller balls, talks, and most importantly, "listens." "We were somewhat surprised to see the extent to which patients appreciated the potential for the robot to increase patient-physician contact and create new venues for information dissemination," says Louis Kavoussi, M.D., Hopkins professor of urology and lead author of the study, which will be presented at the May meeting of the American Urologic Association.

In the study, of 60 hospitalized patients recuperating from surgery, 30 were randomly selected to receive visits by the robo-doc once in lieu of an actual visit by their doctor. "Generally, the robot checked up on patients, asked them how they were feeling, inspected their surgical sites to ensure proper healing, and answered questions," Kavoussi says.

Patient satisfaction with the robot visits, called "telerounding," was assessed by questionnaire two weeks after patient discharge from the hospital.

Half of the patients said that telerounding should become a standard practice for post-operative patient management, and (57 percent said they would feel comfortable having telerounds as part of their future care. Half of those queried said they would prefer a telerounding visit by their own physician to a real visit by another physician. Eight out of 10 said patients taking part in the study thought the robo-doc would increase accessibility

Contact: Gary Stephenson
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

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