BALTIMORE — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says older people are at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19, and health care workers aren’t excluded.
The trouble is coronavirus patients need to see those at-risk providers.
To overcome the problem, a critical care doctor in Baltimore has enlisted the help of a unique partner. A robot named Fast Freddie and critical care doctor H. Neal Reynolds are a new kind of medical team.
Reynolds is in his home office and Fast Freddie is 22 miles away with COVID-19 patients at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.
“With this system, it’s just like being there,” says Reynolds. “It’s very real-time. It’s very comfortable. And patients can see my face, my emotions, my eye contact, and I can see the same on them.”
It allows patients to see a veteran doctor with years of experience — a doctor who otherwise would not be able to help.
“I’m 72. Allegedly, I’m in the high-risk category for getting this disease and doing poorly,” says Reynolds. “It’s real, and its dangerous to some.”
The CDC has now begun tracking coronavirus among health care providers, and the numbers are significant. Even with partial data, they have found 100,000 have tested positive and 531 have died.
So in March, Reynolds’ boss sent him home.
He hasn’t been to the hospital since, but thanks to Fast Freddie, he also hasn’t missed a shift, rounding in the ICU every day.
The hospital is no longer packed with patients, but Reynolds says now is the time to prepare for a possible second surge, and he thinks Fast Freddie and more robots like him should be part of the planning.
“Not only does it protect us, but it allows us, I believe, to deliver better care, so we can actually get back to the bedside,” said Reynolds.