Quintin the robot, who has been assisting physicians at Tygerberg Hospital’s Covid-19 intensive care unit (ICU), is now also helping to put concerned family members in touch with ICU patients that have had to be isolated – and in some cases, allowing them to say goodbye for the very last time.
Quintin, a Double Robotics robot that looks like a computer tablet on wheels, has been equipped to do video and voice calls using the freely available WhatsApp service, or regular phone calls. That means family members can now dial in to “visit” with patients in the Covid-19 ICU.
Watch the heart-warming video below of Quinton in action:
Quintin can be remotely steered using an app and therefore hospital staff don’t have to physically enter the ward to position the robot. This reduces their risk of infection, saves on personal protective equipment (PPE) and frees up their time to focus on other tasks.
Enabling contact between patients and their families has been a “humanising process”, explains Dr Kerry Louw, a psychiatrist at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) and Tygerberg Hospital.
She likens the experience of being a patient in an ICU to “a form of psychological anguish which involves a fear of death, unexpected pain and sensory deprivation, as well as over stimulation”.
ICU patients are not only physically ill, but often also suffer psychologically because they are isolated from their families, are sleep-deprived due to the constant beeping of machines, and experience no natural light or air movement. “Some patients stay in an ICU for long periods of time, and it becomes really difficult for them,” Louw explains.
“It’s heart-warming to see the smiles once patients have connected with their families. It has made such a difference.
Louw says connecting the family who wanted to be present when their relative passed away was memorable and moving. “We were able to have Quintin present while the family sang and prayed with the patient as he died. It was very powerful.”
“It has been a huge privilege to engage with patients and their families at such a vulnerable time in their lives. It is beautiful, but hard.”