New Hoag branch jumps into the future

Editor's note: This corrects the name of the RP-7's manufacturer.

IRVINE — Doctors know every second counts when a patient's life is on the line, but so far teleportation to get a doctor where he or she needs to be — fast — isn't an option.

Like something out of a science-fiction film, a robotic unit capable of "beaming" doctors from across the county via telecommunications technology will examine patients at the new Hoag Hospital in Irvine.

The robot, an RP-7 unit manufactured by InTouch Health, is one of several advanced pieces of equipment to be used at the soon-to-open facility, which hospital officials said was designed with the future of medicine in mind.

Orange County Children's Hospital pediatric critical care specialist Dr. Jason Knight introduced the robot, which easily navigated around hospital beds and equipment Monday with help from an off-site location.

The unit, which hospital staff have named Sara, can be operated from anywhere with Internet access and a laptop. For Monday, it was Knight's Orange County home.

"The RP-7 unit allows me to start the process of pediatric care immediately," Knight said of treating patients that require his expertise but are at another facility. "I have up to a one- to three-hour lead time in treating patients."

Unlike past methods that depended on information limited to verbal communication over telephone lines, Sara allows a doctor to examine patients face-to-face, Knight said.

A monitor and highly sensitive cameras allow patients and doctors to see each other, giving the physician an opportunity to look at physical symptoms, such as changes in skin color, that require treatment.

An electronic stethoscope, otoscope and ultrasound are also connected to the unit, further enabling the doctor to perform in-person examinations and consultations.

The new facility will also feature an advanced high-definition and low-dose radiation CT scanner and operating rooms capable of supporting robotic technologies as they become available in the future, said Robert Braithwaite, chief administrative officer for Hoag Hospital Irvine.

"We wanted to create a platform that we can go forward with into the next decade," Brathwaite said.

Other than technological advancements, the 154-bed facility, which augments the main hospital in Newport Beach, will feature more hotel-like amenities.

All beds will be in private rooms with windows, and patients will be able to make requests similar to room service from TV sets.

Using a remote control, patients can transmit information, such as housekeeping or food service complaints, as well as more serious issues, such as whether they are experiencing dizziness or increased pain, Braithwaite said.

"We are adopting a lot of technologies the hotel industry has been using for years to increase the overall level of patient care and recovery," Braithwaite said.

The hospital will begin admitting patients Sept. 1 for general care, cardiovascular care and to the emergency room, while the orthopedics center will open in November.

If You Go

What: Hoag Hospital Irvine Open House

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 21

Where: 16200 Sand Canyon Ave., Irvine

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