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Cowboy Robot Doctor Makes Rounds At Nebraska Medicine

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Posted at 8:40 AM, Aug 27, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-08 04:35:24-04

OMAHA, Neb. - A new physician is reporting for duty at Nebraska Medicine - Nebraska Medical Center. Dr. Double, is part robot, iPad and Segway.

In 2014, Nebraska Medicine acquired a DoubleRobotics remote telepresence device, nicknamed Dr. Double.

"Telemedicine is an alternative delivery format that uses audio/video technology to bridge geographical barriers and remotely deliver the same standards of care as a patient would expect in an 'in person' setting," explains Kyle Hall, telehealth program coordinator at Nebraska Medicine. "Dr. Double allows a remote user to drive the Internet-connected robot from anywhere else on the Internet, using a computer or an iPad."

This summer, Nebraska Medicine's Child Life Program started using the robot to entertain and educate pediatric patients at the hospital. Hall enlisted the help of Calgary Scientific, a software firm in Canada, located 1,300 miles from Omaha.

"Calgary Scientific is a company whose software is available for use by our neurosurgeons to access X-ray images from their mobile devices while they're on call," says Hall. "Our friends up north also happen to have a DoubleRobotics device in their location, so I asked if they wanted to help brighten the lives of our pediatric patients."

The Calgary folks wanted to have fun, too. Calgary is the home off the Calgary Stampede rodeo. They got Dr. Double a lab coat and cowboy hat. Scientific turned their conference room into a barrel racing arena and let Nebraska Medicine patients drive another robot around the office from an iPad. The employees' dogs, Roxy and Buddy, also made surprise appearances on the screen as "cows" the kids could chase.

"There was such a positive impact on the children we visited," describes Lisa Wallace-Spech, child life specialist at Nebraska Medicine. "Laughter and play are part of the healing process for our pediatric patients, so being able to interact with the robot was the best kind of medicine for them and their families."

In the near future, child life specialists hope to use Dr. Double to provide virtual tours of museums, the zoo, animal shelters, ball games, etc. for patients in isolation at Nebraska Medicine. They also want to give children pre-op tours, so they know what to expect before procedures.

"Telehealth, just like patient care, is a team effort," says Hall. "With all of the positive hospital buzz regarding this venture, the only question is, 'what will we think up next?' Stay tuned to find out."  

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