Maryland doctor uses robot to treat patients during coronavirus outbreak


BALTIMORE (CNN) — They’re a new kind of medical team. A robot named Fast Freddie and critical care doctor H. Neal Reynolds.

Reynolds is in his home office and Fast Freddie is 22 miles away with COVID-19 patients at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Reynolds speaks into his computer and at the hospital, nurses hear him say, “Let me take a peek at the ventilator way over here. I’m going to cruise around the other side of the bed.”

The robot with Reynold’s disembodied face then rolls over to take a look at the medical device.

“With this system, it’s just like being there. It’s very real-time. It’s very comfortable. And, patients can see my face, my emotions, my eye contact, and I can see the same on them.”

In this case, it allows patients to see a veteran doctor with years of experience — a doctor who otherwise would not be able to help.

“I’m 72. Allegedly, I’m in the high-risk category for getting this disease and doing poorly. It’s real, and it’s dangerous to some.”

The CDC now begun tracking COVID among health care providers and the numbers are significant. Even with partial data, they have found 100,000 have tested positive and 531 died.

So, in March, Reynolds’ boss sent him home. He hasn’t been to the hospital since. And yet, thanks to Fast Freddie, he also hasn’t missed a shift.

“I do my full job. I round in the ICU every day.”

Dr. Reynolds says the hospital is no longer packed with patients, but he says now is the time to prepare for a possible second surge, and he thinks Fast Freddie and more robots like him should be part of the planning.

“Not only does it protect us, but it allows us, I believe, to deliver better care, so we can actually get back to the bedside.”

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