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Theatre robot gives on-call orthopaedic surgeons access to off-site specialist advice

WE are breaking more new ground in our telemedicine research with the launch of a trial to test out the use of virtual presence robots in operating theatres.

The technology has been introduced initially to support clinical workflows in orthopaedics - allowing an on-call surgeon to get advice from an off-site colleague.

From a remote or offsite location, they are now able to control a mobile roboto see, talk, hear and safely move around the operating theatre as if they were there in person.

They simply connect instantly through their smartphone, tablet or computer to the robot’s hi-definition camera to give them a crystal-clear and close-up window of the patient’s surgery.

The robot also features a screen, speakers and a microphone to enhance the two-way live link – equipping the off-site surgeon with a pair of mobile eyes and ears in theatre.

The initiative has been developed in response to an identified need in the orthopaedics team when surgeons operating out-of-hours are presented with complex trauma cases.

In such situations, it is often advantageous for them to seek support and advice from surgical colleagues with expertise in a different sub-specialism.

Waiting for that expert input can have a knock-on impact on clinical decision-making and the appropriate surgical intervention being carried out.

In turn, this delay can increase the risks to our patients; lengthen their time in hospital; and lead to a rise in our own costs as more operative procedures may be required.

Our longer-term aim is that the learnings from this six-month trial in theatre 8, which went live at the end of December 2018, will be used to shape the digital design for the emergency theatre suite in our Acute Receiving Centre.

Enabling surgeons to replicate themselves in theatre from a distance in this way may also potentially lead to a change in how external orthoplastic support may be delivered moving forwards.

This is a sister project to the pilot exploring the benefits of face-to-face video consultations between care homes in Salford and on-call GPs from our Care Homes Medical Practice, based at Sandringham House.

They are the latest innovations to go live as part of our programme of more than 50 world-class projects being brought to life by our Global Digital Exemplar and Future Digital teams.

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