High-Tech House Call

By Val Prevish | Photos by Gary Kessler for Episcopal Retirement Homes Linkage

Residents at Marjorie P. Lee and Deupree Cottages may notice a new “face” in the halls—a robotic face, that is. Episcopal Retirement Homes (ERH) is piloting a VGo robot that enables physicians and family members to interact with patients remotely to enhance care and improve communication.

At about 4 feet tall with wheels and a 6-inch screen where the remote operator’s face appears, the VGo is a sleek new piece of technology, says Executive Vice President Laura Lamb. Using a secure Internet connection, the remote operator is able to direct the VGo independently of those near to the robot. The user and those who interact with the VGo user, get the feeling the operator is right there to see, hear and talk to the people in the room as if he or she was physically present.

“I could be anywhere in the world, and I could dial in to the VGo and then I can be in that spot through the robot,” Lamb says.

This new technology has the potential to revolutionize the way residents receive care from physicians, and even the way they are able to interact with distant loved ones, says Lamb.

ERH is piloting the device in conjunction with The Christ Hospital Heart & Vascular physicians and with University of
Cincinnati Medical Center. Already the robot has exceeded expectations.

“This enables us to improve communication between doctors and residents,” Lamb says. “The VGo makes it simpler for
a specialist to examine a resident remotely, saving time and improving outcomes.”

The robot’s camera can look up and down and allows for zooming in to get a better view of a specific area, wound or
injury. Judi Dean, Director of Nursing at Marjorie P. Lee, says the VGo is a big step forward in the care of residents who are healing from surgery or recent illness.

“Before the VGo, our nurses spent a lot of time back and forth with physicians on the phone painting a picture of what the resident’s condition was like,” Dean says. “The physician usually wanted to see the resident, and that meant a trip to the hospital, often unnecessarily. Using VGo, the physician can see the resident and make the proper diagnosis. It’s valuable, and it can prevent re-hospitalizations.”

Lamb says she also sees opportunities for residents to communicate in a more personal way with distant relatives and friends. “Family members who are far away can use the VGo to see their loved one and be involved in care planning,” says Lamb. “This isn’t just for doctors.”

Eventually, Lamb says she’d like to have more than one VGo. “Once you see this robot in action, the light bulb comes on,” she says. “You see the value. I’d love to add more of them to our residences.”