VGo Robots Give Patients a View Outside their Hospital Room

Starlight community partners receive state-of-the-art technology.

June 6, 2016

VGo robots are an exciting new technology program offered by Starlight, and they are already transforming the hospital experience for pediatric patients.

The VGo robot is state-of-the-art technology that provides a fun way for young patients to explore their surroundings or return to the classroom from their beds and rooms with two-way video and audio through the use of a laptop or handheld remote control. The robots can also be used by doctors and nurses to quickly and easily check on patients over long distances from a remote location, thus reducing expenses for hospitals and improving health outcomes for patients.

Astellas USA Foundation has provided a $250,000 grant to fund 22 VGo robots in Starlight community partner facilities across the nation, including California, Illinois, Oklahoma and Massachusetts.

The Children's Center Rehabilitation Hospital

On June 15, a VGo robot was placed at The Children's Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethany, Oklahoma, just outside Oklahoma City. Hospital staff are excited to have this tool to enhance their patients experience during their time in the hospital while they receive 24-hour medical care. It's also a great tool to build family relationships while kids are away from home.

“The robots will also allow siblings of patients, who aren’t able to sit bedside, the chance to communicate, which will drastically strengthen that bond between them,” Melissa Richey, Director of Communications and Marketing, The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital.

Rush Children's Hospital at Rush University Medical Center

In May, two of them were placed at Rush Children's Hospital at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Patients, staff and representatives from Astellas USA Foundation gathered at the facility to officially unveil and celebrate the new technology.

“The robots will help allow family members who are away from the hospital to interact and visit children without putting the patients’ health at risk," says Robyn Hart, director of Child Life at Rush University Medical Center. "And, it will allow for parents to virtually be with their child using this robot while they are receiving a needed test or exam where the parent cannot physically be present.”

Rush University Medical Center encompasses a 664-bed hospital serving adults and children, and has more than 9,300 employees and faculty. Rush University, with more than 2,500 students is a health sciences university and is comprised of Rush Medical College, the College of Nursing, the College of Health Sciences, and the Graduate College.

LAC+USC Medical Center

At the unveiling at LAC+USC Medical Center in Los Angeles a week later, young patients had the chance to use the technology first-hand and see how they could utilize it to enhance their hospital stay.

“It’s really creative and it’s pretty easy to work - not hard at all,” said Jeffrey, a leukemia patient at LAC+USC. He was maneuvering the hospital's new robot from his bed through the pediatric unit’s hallway from a laptop computer. “It’s fun and keeps you entertained.”

The 676-bed LAC+USC facility is one of the premier academic teaching hospitals in the nation and one of the state’s leading hospitals for training health professionals. LAC+USC Medical Center operates special units that serve patients from throughout Southern California, including a Burn Center, a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care unit, and one the busiest Level-One Trauma Centers in the country.

For Marisa and Diego, operating the VGo was a chance for their 17-year-old son, Nathan, to explore life outside the Pediatric ICU at LAC+USC where he has been in isolation for several months. Nathan has acute lymphocytic leukemia that caused a fungal infection – mucormycosis – resulting in the removal of his right eye and part of his sinus and cheekbone. Orange County doctors told his parents Nathan would not live. But since being admitted, Nathan bounced back and is his parents’ “miracle” child.

“Nathan is very athletic and is a football player,” said Marisa, as Nathan moved the robot around the pediatric play room, which he had never seen. “He can’t leave his room. So this gets him active and moving and able to roam the hallways.”

When asked what he thought about the VGo, Nathan, via the robot’s screen, said “Awesome! It gives me the freedom to move about the hospital.”

Innovative technology that improves health and wellness

The VGo robot is more than a fun way to pass time. Patients can use the robot, like Jeffrey did, to find nursing staff if they need something. The VGo technology can even place the child in their school and attend class from their hospital bed.

“This is a great example of how technology, care and compassion can come together to advance the child’s wellbeing beyond the hospital walls,” said Astellas USA Foundation lead Robin Andrews, who was on-hand at Rush Children's and LAC+USC to watch the VGo robots in action. “I was really moved when I saw Nathan use the VGo so efficiently. It’s great to see something greatly improve the patient’s well-being. Astellas USA is so thrilled to partner with Starlight Children’s Foundation.

For LAC+USC's child life specialist Alma Ramirez, it’s a great tool to have for the 25-bed pediatric unit and ends the isolation that comes with hospitalization, which can affect a child’s mental health and wellness.

“This robot is going to be effective in our pediatric facility. It allows our children to be out and about in the unit and playroom. We love it already,” she said. “It’s great for them to have something they can use and be themselves in the unit.

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