Robots roam the halls of Hunt Regional Healthcare facilities


When nurses and physicians at Hunt Regional facilities need the help of a specialist, they can now turn to robots for assistance. VGo, a revolutionary robot from VGo Communications, allows hospitals to provide telemedicine services from any location with wireless internet. Hunt Regional’s first robots are already in service at Hunt Regional Medical Center in Greenville and at Hunt Regional Emergency Center at Commerce.

Just like a human, VGo can see, hear, talk, interact and go anywhere. Unlike traditional videoconferencing solutions such as iPads or Skype where multiple people each have their own device, VGo is completely independent and is controlled through the use of a remote. VGo communication also differs itself from other videoconference tools such as FaceTime by completely encrypting information, ensuring total protection of patient privacy.

The robot works using a high-resolution, maneuverable camera with a high-powered zoom that can view injuries, limbs and even inside a patient’s mouth, while remaining a comfortable distance from the patient.

Hunt Regional is the first in the region to introduce the robots. The robots allow physicians from one facility to provide consultations to patients at a different location. Although all of the providers currently using the service are Hunt Regional physicians, in theory the VGo system will allow medical staff to gain consultations from specialists all over the country.

“There are multiple potential benefits for Hunt Regional patients through the development of a telemedicine program which will provide easier access to the greatest minds in healthcare,” said Hunt Regional Healthcare CEO Richard Carter.

As expected, advancing technology through telemedicine comes at a price. Greenville philanthropist and friend of Hunt Regional Healthcare Foundation Betty Williams is one of the donors responsible for helping bring the VGo robots to Hunt Regional and says she believes in the power of telemedicine services in Hunt County.

Following the death of her husband, James R. Williams, in 2011, Oak Creek Country Club in Greenville hosted their annual golf tournament in his name the following year. After searching for the right project to use the funds, Williams learned about Hunt Regional’s interest in developing a telemedicine program and knew immediately that the project was the right fit.

“I know firsthand the inconvenience of being away from home, family and friends with a loved one critically ill,” says Williams, acknowledging that personal experience is a big reason of why this project is important to her.

“I feel this will allow patients to stay in Greenville while still having the luxury of receiving second opinions from a specialist,” she said.

Realizing how important it was to her husband for our community hospital to grow and thrive, Williams decided to fund the cost of two robots and has nicknamed the robots Riley Rose and Pops—the names of two people Williams says she loves dearly.

Also contributing to the VGo project are Hunt Regional’s auxiliary group from Commerce and the Hunt Regional Healthcare Foundation board members. The robot purchased by the Commerce Pink Ladies is currently in operation at Hunt Regional Emergency Medical Center at Commerce, while Riley Rose and Pops can be found roaming the floor units and emergency department at Hunt Regional Medical Center in Greenville.

As telemedicine expands and the healthcare system continues to increase its use of digitally-driven medicine, Hunt Regional hopes to eventually see more robots funded.

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