Jeff City hospital expands access to specialists thanks to robots

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JEFFERSON CITY - A hospital in the capital city announced Monday its partnering with three hospitals in the state to bring patients in critical situations to doctors faster and closer to home.  

The SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital will be partnering with the SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, SSM Health DePaul Hospital in St. Louis and St. Clare Hospital in Fenton to help bring physicians to patients in mid-Missouri. 

St. Mary's Hospital first started offering telemedicine services in August and this week it has expanded its reach. 

Philip Gustafson, hospital president, said there has been a lot of testing and communication between professionals and how the technology works. He said the technology has been around for a little over a year. 

"We look at this as a wonderful opportunity to serve people better, particularly with the children, and the ability to get some good diagnosis and do so fairly rapidly and not have to worry about it," he said.  

The hospital said the telemedicine robot cuts unnecessary transfers by almost 40 percent across all of its "teleNICU" sites, so mothers are less likely to be away from their babies.

The hospital provides telemedicine services in four key critical areas: family birthing center, emergency department for pediatrics, outpatient care for pediatrics and emergency department for adult stroke patients. 

The hospital brings in the telemedicine robot for situations when patients are experiencing stroke symptoms or when a child is in the emergency department. Then the patient can consult with the expert even if they're miles away.

Theodore Willmore, the medical director of the emergency department, said the robot is fun and easy to use. He said the robot is “essentially a backup for difficult situations.”

“In a community hospital, we don’t often see very young, sick patients with multiple medical issues,” Willmore said. 

He said the hospital has immediate access to specialists in other parts of the state by the touch of a button. 

“I was really surprised and delighted by the technology,” Willmore said. “I’ve used it a few times now and it's remarkable. You bring the telemedicine robot in and you’ve got the specialist there.”

He said the kids love the telemedicine robot. 

The hospital said the service will be available for lactation consultations for new mothers in mid-March.