BOSTON (WHDH) - Medical personnel at Brigham and Women’s Hospital are using a robotic dog to safely talk to patients with COVID-19.

Spot, a robot designed by hospital researchers, Boston Dynamics and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is being implemented in a new study as federal and state restrictions over new technologies become more lenient, according to Dr. Peter Chai of Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Department of Emergency Medicine.

“There’s been a lot of federal restrictions and state restrictions that have been lifted around new technologies coming into hospital settings facilitating telemedicine through different types of technological platforms, so that’s kind of open the doors for a lot of innovative ideas,” he said.

As part of the study, the robot will see patients and help doctors make medical decisions on whether those patients need further testing or if their symptoms can be safely managed at home to keep hospital beds free for individuals who need more care.

“Once the patient agrees to be seen by the robot, the patient is approached by the robot and, from a distance, there is a provider that’s at the other end of this virtual interface,” explained Dr. Farah Dadabhoy of the Brigham and Women’s/Massachusetts General Hospital Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency.

After a series of questions, the patient will be seen by a nurse if it is determined that they need further testing.

The goal is to eventually have Spot do the work and evaluate vital signs through iPad cameras with zero clinician contact, said Dr. Giovanni Traverso, assistant mechanical engineering professor at MIT.

“What we are incorporating are our cameras that can extract visually, using either infrared or regular cameras, heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation,” he described.

The robot will also conserve the use of personal protective equipment and reduce exposure.

“We are really tackling the problems surrounding how we best manage patients in this COVID pandemic where there’s so much risk to healthcare workers getting infected and getting knocked out of work for sometime,” Chai said.

Doctors say patients and staff love the robot and most are happy to be part of the study.

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