New Wyoming Medical Center ‘robot’ helps smaller hospitals diagnose strokes

Neurologist David Wheeler, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.N., runs training with staff at Memorial Hospital of Converse County in Douglas using the InTouch Health system at his office at Wyoming Neurologic Associates in Casper on Tuesday night. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Stroke patients in smaller communities can now benefit from access to 24-hour neurologists, all thanks to Vici

Vici is a robot developed by InTouch Health that can be rolled into position on a moment’s notice.

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On the robot sports a high definition screen and camera, allowing a neurologist miles away to help in the critical moments after a stroke patient is brought to an ER.

Wyoming Medical Center has partnered with Memorial Hospital of Converse County in Douglas and Sheridan Memorial Hospital with their TeleStroke program, which uses the InTouch Health system.

According to a WMC press release, few Wyoming hospitals have 24-hour neurology coverage.

“TeleStroke Wyoming allows WMC neurologists to actively participate in patient care and decision making from the moment the patient arrives at their local hospital,” said neurologist David Wheeler, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.N., in a press release.

Dr. Wheeler is medical director of WMC’s Primary Stroke Center.

Neurologist David Wheeler, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.N., runs training with staff at Memorial Hospital of Converse County in Douglas using the InTouch Health system at his office at Wyoming Neurologic Associates in Casper on Tuesday night. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

“Having neurologists involved early increases the likelihood that patients will get the appropriate diagnosis and treatment quickly, and that’s the metric of excellence in stroke care,” said Dr. Wheeler.

The robot system allows specialists such as Dr. Wheeler to interact directly with the stroke patient from the WMC or his office. He can connect via any laptop or PC. The Vici robot can be quickly wheeled into any room and can run on battery if necessary.

The specialist can move and zoom the robot camera from afar, ask questions, interact with the patient and see via high quality video signs of stroke severity. The patient’s history, vital signs and other information is displayed in real time.

Dr. Wheeler participated in a practice run with the medical staff in Douglas on Tuesday afternoon from his Casper office at the Wyoming Neurologic Associates, where he ran through various scenarios with volunteer patients.

According to a WMC press release, stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death and the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States. One in every three strokes occur in people under 65.

Quick action is essential during a stroke, in which up to 2 million brain cells are killed every minute, according to Dr Wheeler.

“We want to help every hospital become certified as Acute Stroke Ready or as a Primary Stroke Center,” Dr. Wheeler said. “We’re bringing up the quality of care in these other facilities, and I see that as the most important thing: Making cutting-edge stroke care available for every citizen of Wyoming.”

The WMC has partnerships in Douglas and Sheridan Memorial Hospital, and in talks with other hospitals in Wyoming according to spokesperson Kristy Bleizeffer.

Neurologist David Wheeler, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.N., runs training with staff at Memorial Hospital of Converse County in Douglas using the InTouch Health system at his office at Wyoming Neurologic Associates in Casper on Tuesday night. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Wyoming Medical Center neurologist David Wheeler, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.N., is seen on the screen of the Vici robot at Memorial Hospital of Counverse County during a training session on Tuesday afternoon. Dr. Wheeler was in his office in Casper, where he can use the robot to help diagnose stroke patients. (Courtesy)