New telemedicine robot to aid mental health care efforts

The Health Services Authority is expanding the use of its new upgraded ‘RP Sally’ telemedical remote presence robot to help patients facing mental health challenges.

The robot, the second to be donated to the hospital service by the Cayman Islands Seafarers Association, will be used to treat patients locally instead of sending them overseas for clinical help.

Dr. Delroy Jefferson, medical director of the Health Services Authority, told the Compass the upgraded robot was received a few weeks ago and there are big plans in the works to maximise its use.

Denniston Tibbetts, president of the Cayman Islands Seafarers Association, makes a point at the Cayman Islands Healthcare Conference Friday at the Ritz-Carlton.

“The first robot was used very effectively in seeing patients remotely. Now we have a new robot and we are currently in discussions with some overseas facilities and we are going to be preparing [a request for proposals] and asking overseas hospitals to get involved in seeing some of our more catastrophic cases and, instead of sending these patients overseas, we can keep the patients at home,” he said.

The robot, RP Sally 4, allows doctors on island and overseas to monitor patients remotely.

It also enables remote access to specialists in the United States at the touch of a button.

Jefferson, speaking with the Compass at the annual Cayman Islands Healthcare conference at The Ritz-Carlton on Friday, said that, starting from October, the HSA will be running a paediatric psychiatry clinic every Monday, Wednesday and Friday remotely.

“The psychiatrist will be in London and, from London, she can have access to our patients here in Cayman and we can get input into the care and management of these patients,” he said.

The cost of the robot was not released. However, Jefferson said the cost benefits of having such technology available to patients is priceless.

He pointed to a recent case of a stroke patient at the hospital in which the Authority was told that it would have to secure $500,000 for an overseas facility to the patient’s treatment.

“We decided to keep the patient and, through the use of the robot, we were able to access care, and the total care was not even $10,000, so the saving to the patient and the saving to the insurers is significant,” he said.

That case, he said, was just one example of the impact of the robot locally.

He congratulated the Seafarers Association for making the robot available to the Cayman community.

At the HSA, he said, each department now has access to the robot so “whenever a department needs to get access to the robot for an overseas provider or a super specialist, they have the opportunity to access these super specialists overseas through the robot.”

He added that staff is also able to see what is going on with patients on a minute-by-minute basis from their home.

“They can dial in to the robot and see what is going [on] with their patient; that is another aspect of it and that has improved access to patients from the clinicians, and it has improved the quality of care one can deliver to the patient,” he said.

Carole Appleyard, president and CEO of Carole Appleyard Consulting, stressed the importance of telemedicine and its effectiveness locally when she spoke at the conference, and she publicly recognised the Seafarers Association for its contribution.

Denniston Tibbetts, president of the Seafarers Association, and other members of the executive were on hand for the conference.

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