“How did you get in the robot?” That was the question a young patient at Children’s National Health System had on Thursday for Dr. Bear Bot.
Cardiologist Alejandro Lopez-Magallon answered the question from a blue-lit room on a different floor of the hospital — a control center lined with monitors showing the vital signs of all the patients in the unit as well as live video from their rooms.
“I’m not really in the robot,” he explained, adding that he uses Dr. Bear Bot remotely to check in on patients and confer with nurses and parents.
The virtual liaison has been making rounds in the hospital’s cardiac intensive care unit since September, but on Thursday, its name was officially announced. Dr. Bear Bot was chosen after a hospital-wide vote by 185 children and staff.
The newly named bot, which stands 5 feet, 6 inches tall, celebrated the reveal by passing out robot-themed Valentine’s cards to the patients, with phrases like “I like you a whole bot,” and “Beep mine, Valentine.”
Dr. Bear Bot is just one part of a high-tech system that gives Lopez-Magallon a unique perspective on all the patients in the ICU — one that allows him to look at long-term trends in a patient’s health that may be missed by the bedside team, he said.
By staying in the control room, he also has easy access to medical images, which he can pull up and show to parents or nurses via Dr. Bear Bot’s screen.
“It’s almost like being there,” he said. “It humanizes the interaction in a way a simple screen can’t.”
Perhaps the most important benefit of the remote-monitoring system is that it allows Lopez-Magallon to keep a close eye on all the patients in the ICU and head off problems before they gain momentum, he said.
“Let’s say they are taking care of a patient on one side of unit and, on the other side, there is a storm brewing,” he said.
“In some cases we can start some treatments before the nursing staff can get there.”
Children’s Medical is the first pediatric hospital to implement this kind of system, Lopez-Magallon said.