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Robot Enriches Telehealth Learning in Cambodia

Timing can be everything! Who would have thought that a project created in 2019 would be so important and beneficial during the pandemic? 

This year Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital (SKMH) in Kampot, Cambodia started using a telehealth robot. The device was provided by our partner World Telehealth Initiative (WTI), a non-profit organization that utilizes telehealth technology to bring sustainable medical expertise to low-resource communities globally.  HVO began partnering with WTI in 2019, when two telehealth devices were shipped to Cambodia and Bhutan.     

When COVID-19 struck, SKMH contacted HVO for training in emergency medicine. Volunteers and learners used one small laptop and projected the lecture onto a screen. This posed a significant challenge as the microphone and speakers were attached to the laptop, making it difficult for the learners to hear the lecture and for the volunteers to hear questions. Additionally, volunteers were unable to see any participants who were not sitting directly in front of the laptop. 

The WTI device has given a whole new dynamic to learning! Dr. Richard Wise was the first HVO volunteer to use the device. He stated, “The robot allowed me to see the audience more easily. They could also see me as if I was in the front of the room, instead of being on a small laptop.” 

Not only is he using the robot to give lectures, but he has also been able to assist in other innovative ways. A day after giving a lecture on hypokalemia (low potassium levels) while using the robot, he received a phone call from the Chief of Emergency Medicine at SKMH, Dr. Sunly Khun, who was in the emergency room with a patient that had symptoms of hypokalemia. Dr. Wise agreed to assist on the case and the robot was taken to the patient’s bedside where a 180-degree rotation gave him the ability to see the patient’s vital signs and the exam that Dr. Khun gave the patient. The robot, controlled by Dr. Wise, allowed Dr. Khun the use of both his hands rather than just one, had he been using his cellphone to connect on FaceTime. 

How does the robot work? According to the World Telehealth Initiative: 

The device is powered by Intel® processors, that are necessary for the telehealth program. Clinics primarily utilize the Teladoc Health Lite model which features: 

  • Authentic visualization of patient through pan-tilt-zoom head optimized for doctor viewing 
  • Clear communication between doctor and patient enabled by high quality live video, directional audio, and media tools designed for the clinical environment 
  • Simple interface for stethoscope, privacy headset and I/O ports for peripherals 

How can you volunteer for this innovative project? 

Prior to teaching a lecture with the robot, potential volunteers go through the HVO volunteer recruitment process. After being accepted, volunteers receive training through the World Telehealth Initiative, learning how to use the robot from across the world. Dr. Wise said that the robot is very easy to use and the training only took 30 minutes. For more information on how to volunteer please visit: https://hvousa.org/get-involved/volunteer-application/ 

Timing is everything. The telehealth robot has given an extra pair of eyes and ears for our health professionals on the ground without volunteers being physically present, which has been so beneficial when travel has not been possible during the pandemic 

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