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Robot Helps Provide Human Connection During COVID-19

Clinical study at Duke Raleigh Hospital tests a virtual approach to bedside care


Sarah Avery
Sarah Avery
919-724-5343 Email

RALEIGH, N.C. -- For the last three weeks, a Duke Raleigh Hospital case manager has used a telepresence robot called JaMMeR to collaborate with her colleagues and see her Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients while she works remotely during the COVID-19 response.

JaMMer, an iPad mounted on a rolling stick, has been used for the last few years in an educational setting at the Duke University School of Nursing. This is the first time JaMMer is being feasibility tested by the Duke University School of Nursing in a clinical setting, piloted at Duke Raleigh Hospital, to see how it might help augment face-to-face patient care. 

“Prior to using the robot I was talking to patients on the phone,” said Jill Galuten, a Duke Raleigh Hospital case manager, of how the robot has changed how she’s able to work remotely during the pandemic. “Often times they were watching TV. They didn’t always connect with me, but with the robot, when I go in, they turn the TV off and they are able to see my face. I feel like there is more of a connection.”

Galuten spends a few hours each morning visiting her patients alongside nurses, doctors, and pharmacy team members. She talks face-to-face with the nursing team to get pertinent updates that help her ensure her patients have the medications, supplies, and care they need once they leave the hospital. 

As Duke Health and other Triangle hospitals continue visitor restrictions to protect the safety of patients, visitors and staff members, the JaMMer robot is providing extra comfort to patients’ families.

“Now that we are in this pandemic, the families cannot come in, so I am trying to be their eyes,” Galuten said. “I am describing what the rooms look like and I am talking to them about how their loved one has reacted to me to try and make this crisis a little smoother for the family.”

The families suggest things that make the patients feel more at home and Galuten tries to take that knowledge back to the bedside and play the patient’s favorite music or chat with them about their hobbies.
Galuten is also the only person patients see in the hospital without a mask now that Duke Health is masking everyone everyday as another COVID-19 safety precaution. 

“They get excited just to see her come in on those wheels,” said Julie Lihvarcik, a clinical nurse in the ICU. “It is the only face they see without a mask. Seeing a smile definitely helps out.”

Lihvarcik says interacting with Galuten as a robot has also boosted team moral. 

“It has brought a lot of fun and joy to our day,” Lihvarcik said. “She’s a bright light on our unit, and now we can see her face again.”

The Duke University School of Nursing does not have a definitive timeline for the pilot at Duke Raleigh Hospital, but with the success of the project so far, a second robot is planned for patient care in the near future.

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