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Robot helping





Hays Medical Center now is partnering with the University of Kansas Hospital to enhance care for stroke patients.

The Tele-Stroke Robot acts as a two-way video call to a stroke neurologist at KU. The robot is deployed every time a stroke alert is activated, and the specialist from KU logs on to the system from a laptop or mobile device.

"It's a computer on wheels," said Carol Groen, manager of special projects at HaysMed. "The KU physician can see the patient, hear what's going on, ask questions. They see strokes every day. They see the most complex strokes, so that really helps us with decision making and recommendations. The patient can also see the physician and partake in the conversation."

HaysMed does not employ a full-time stroke neurologist, so having access to a specialist could assist with diagnosis and treatment time, Groen said.

"Accurate diagnosis of a stroke and timely treatment is crucial to improved patient outcomes," said Larry Watts, chief medical officer, in a statement. "Utilizing the tele-stroke robot allows us to conduct a full diagnostic exam on the patient and gather all the clinical information to provide excellent care for our patients."

The specialists are accessible 24 hours a day, and have the ability to manipulate the robot, view patient charts and zoom in to see troubled areas.

"The specialist can hear the patient's speech," Groen said. "They can look at pupils. It's very exact in nature. One of the goals is to evaluate and begin treatment as fast as possible."

HaysMed averages 20 to 25 strokes per month. The robot was brought on in July, but KU has assisted with cases through the phone for years.

"We used to call KU if we had a question or complex case," Groen said. "But there's only so much information you can give on the phone, and a lot of it depends on how you present the case to the doctor. They couldn't see the patient."

HaysMed was certified as a Primary Stroke Center Hospital in November. In July, the hospital was given a $12.5 million grant to improve care for heart disease and stroke. That jump-started the process to gain the robot.

"When we became certified as a Primary Stroke Center Hospital, we wanted to take that extra step," Groen said. "We wanted to have that extra sense of security and that extra expertise for our patients coming in."

KU covered the cost and will lease the robot through HaysMed for the next three years. After that, HaysMed could decide to go in a different direction, Groen said.