A new piece of technology, known as a telemedical remote presence robot, has been used to treat Cayman’s first local patient.
Medical director of the Health Services Authority, Dr. Delroy Jefferson, explained that the robot had been used earlier this month to help diagnose a patients who had suffered a stroke.
The patient, ophthalmologist Dr. Krishna Mani, was able get an assessment from an overseas specialist within minutes of having the stroke, Dr. Jefferson said.
The device gives local doctors instant access to medical specialists in more than 800 overseas medical facilities.
“Internationally, we have been seen as one of the Caribbean leaders in healthcare delivery,” said Dr. Jefferson. “We are one of the few Caribbean islands with this technology as it relates to healthcare delivery.”
The robot, nicknamed “RP Sally,” was donated to the Health Services Authority by the Seafarers Association last year. It is a product of telemedical company InTouch Health and is one of only two telemedical robots in the Caribbean.
How it works
“I’m happy to see us using technology to enhance diagnosis and treatment,” said Dr. Jefferson. “It helps specialists in eliciting clinical signs from the local patient transmitted through the use of the robot.”
Through the robot’s high-quality peripheral vision, a doctor can check the vital signs of a patient and make a diagnosis.
More than 50 clinical staff members of the Health Services Authority are trained to use the equipment.
In Dr. Mani’s case, staff were able to quickly dial in to a trauma center for strokes in Tampa, Florida. From there, a specialist was able to examine his vital signs and give direction to local staff on how to proceed with treatment.
“Essentially … it provides us with the capability of getting a specialist in an area that is far away, as if that person was here seeing and interacting with the patient as well,” said Dr. Jefferson.
He said that the quick diagnosis may have saved Dr. Mani’s life, as he did not have to wait to be airlifted from Cayman, and it also may have prevented him from suffering disability in his left side. He added that, said in this case, the healthcare costs saved by the use of RP Sally was roughly $70,000.
Dr. Jefferson said the device can also be used to diagnose heart attacks, fractures and other medical conditions.
To thank the Seafarers Association for donating the device, Dr. Jefferson hosted a presentation at the Seafarers Association Hall in Prospect on April 15.
“I’m very emotional about this because this particular person is not only a physician like I am, but he is also a friend who suffered a severe condition,” said Dr. Jefferson. “Through the equipment you provided, we were able to save his life, and we saved him from problems like severe disability. And also saved the country several thousands of dollars.”
During his presentation, Dr. Jefferson used his laptop to dial in to the robot to speak to Dr. Mani.
Speaking from his hospital bed in the Cayman Islands Hospital’s intensive care unit, Dr. Mani said, “I think this is the best thing that happened to Cayman,” and he thanked the seafarers for playing a part in saving his life through their donation.
The main benefit of the robot, Dr. Jefferson pointed out, is that in some situations, the life of a patient could be put at risk from air travel.
“By putting the patient on the plane and sending them off could cause the problem to worsen. Fortunately, we had this robot that was able to assist us, and kept us from having to put [Dr. Mani] on the plane, which would have put his life at even greater risk,” said Dr. Jefferson.
From a financial standpoint, Carole Appleyard, head of medical consulting firm Carole Appleyard Consulting, said that significant costs were saved for the patient in the long term.
“The patient would have had to have long-term overseas rehabilitation care. Costs for catastrophic care would be in the region of $1 million, which saved himself and his insurer all these costs,” said Ms. Appleyard.
Government spent more than $15 million on patients receiving hospital and outpatient treatment at overseas medical facilities last year.