With the intention of preventing the spread of the coronavirus within the hospital, doctors at the Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington are using a robot to treat a man afflicted with the Wuhan coronavirus or 2019-nCoV.
Incidentally, the man is also the first person diagnosed with the dangerous pathogenic illness in the US. The unnamed man, who is in his 30s, was diagnosed on Monday with the coronavirus. The man from Snohomish County initially sought treatment at an emergency care clinic on January 19 and notified the staff about his recent travel to Wuhan and his fears of a suspected infection.
On January 15, he arrived at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He was brought to the hospital in a special isolated gurney called an ISOPOD and is being treated in an isolated area, far from the busy areas of the hospital, Dr. George Diaz, the hospital's chief of the infectious disease division, told CNN.
How is the robot aiding doctors?
Essentially, the robot is a platform on wheels and is called 'Intouch Vici'. It is equipped with an in-built screen with a 120-degree tilt range and sports a stethoscope, much like a real healthcare professional.
However, its camera — a high definition pan-tilt-zoom camera with 36x zoom — requires re-positioning, requiring nurses to enter the room to accomplish that. According to Dr. Diaz, the robot is aiding the doctor in monitoring the man's vitals, and in communicating with him using the screen. The robot comes with a power capacity of 5 hours.
"The nursing staff in the room move the robot around so we can see the patient in the screen, talk to him," Dr. Diaz said. He also stressed on the reduced risk of infection that the use of the robot places on the staff.
As reported by CNN, the robotic quarantine system was updated by the hospital in light of the Ebola outbreak in 2014-16. This technology demonstrates the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak scare, and it serving as a line of defense that the hospital is relying on to eliminate the chances of a spread.
"That's why we set up protocols that will allow us to treat patients with infectious diseases in a way that we can isolate them without spreading the virus to anyone," Dr. Diaz told CNN. The hospital also tested its treatment protocols for highly contagious diseases such as Ebola and MERS, around two weeks ago.
Reaching out to the man's 43 contacts
The man identified the people he had been in interaction with since his return from Wuhan, and state health officials in Washington have been in communication with 43 people whom the patient described as close contacts. They will be closely monitored in order to pick on signs of illness if they exhibit any.
As far as the quarantine and treatment of the infected man goes, it is not certain what the duration of his isolation might be, as the CDC has urged the hospital to carry out additional tests, reported CNN. "They're looking for ongoing presence of the virus," said Dr. Diaz "They're looking to see when the patient is no longer contagious," he added.