Aug 2021 1st edition

Stevie takes on COVID-19

The Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Pretoria (UP) and Steve Biko Academic Hospital have welcomed a mobile robot called Stevie to help improve the treatment of patients during the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Named after Steve Biko – one of the most prominent leaders during South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle – Stevie will be vital in allowing for bedside ward rounds attended by intensive care unit (ICU) teams from across the globe.

This will be done through instant live discussion and communication daily between German and South African ICU teams.

Academic and Clinical Head of the Department of Critical Care at UP and Steve Biko Academic Hospital Professor Fathima Paruk says: “Stevie is now officially the much-adored baby of our ICU team and is stimulating much excitement throughout the hospital.”

Prof Fathima Paruk, Academic and Clinical Head, of the Department of Critical Care at UP and Steve Biko Academic Hospital with mobile robot Stevie.Stevie has a privacy handset which is a live phone to aid confidential communication during ward rounds and a stethoscope port where it can remotely relay information while a patient is being examined.

Stevie also has high-definition pan-tilt-zoom cameras which are useful for close-up diagnosis and patient care.

“ICU specialists and their teams based in Germany at Charite University and Robert Koch Institute will join the South African ICU team in person through the robot’s digital screen.

“Both the South African and German teams, led by ICU specialists, will be able to interact virtually.”

The team from Germany will be able to see the patient, look at the ICU monitors and engage in discussions with patients.

“The ward rounds will involve discussing the medical condition and a management plan over a secure line,” she adds.

Stevie will be used for the benefit of all ICU patients, including COVID-19 patients, as well as exchanging ideas, specialist training, global collaborations, webinars and educational workshops.

UP’s Faculty of Health Sciences Dean Professor Tiaan de Jager says telemedicine plays a crucial role in encouraging long-distance patient and clinician care.

He adds that COVID-19 has been a massive disruptor in healthcare and has inspired the sector to rethink its current systems and how they can be more efficient.

We are grateful to our collaborators and colleagues for ensuring that telemedicine can take centre stage and help us combat COVID-19,” he says. -


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