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Published in Health Care

Spectrum Health telerobotics research on remote procedures backed with $8.8M grant

BY Monday, October 03, 2022 05:25pm

BHSH Spectrum Health West Michigan will use an $8.8 million grant to test and validate the ability to perform cardiac catheterizations remotely using robots.

The funding from the New York City-based Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust will help cardiac cath labs at rural hospitals in the Upper Midwest and Nevada study the potential for doing procedures through telerobotics.

Dr. Ryan Madder. COURTESY PHOTO

Dr. Ryan Madder, an interventional cardiologist at Spectrum Health, has been researching and using robotics in his practice for years. He believes the technical ability exists to now perform cardiac caths remotely, enabling a cardiologist to treat a patient hundreds of miles away at a rural hospital and who may otherwise require a transfer elsewhere.

In the case of a heart attack or stroke, the delay in care from transferring a patient for a procedure to reopen a clogged artery can have “significant implications” for a patient’s outcome and recovery, Madder said.

If validated, the use of telerobotics to perform cardiac catheterizations could begin to close the gap between the care available between urban and rural hospitals.

“Unfortunately, right now, even within the United States, there are significant disparities in health care when you compare the type of care provided at rural and more urban locations,” Madder told MiBiz. “The types of procedures that are offered are often less and behind the times with respect to the treatments that are often available in urban areas, so unfortunately patients in these rural locations don’t often get state-of-the-art care. Telerobotics is one way that we think we can address that. Even if you can’t have the physician with the expertise at that location to do the intervention that’s required in the heart or in the brain, you could use a robotics system to disseminate that expertise to these rural locations.”

The three-year initiative backed by the grant funding will involve forming a multi-state network of independent health systems to study how they can use telerobotics to treat heart attacks and strokes. Working with the Helmsley Charitable Trust, five hospitals outside of Michigan will join Spectrum Health in a project to develop their own telerobotics capabilities in their existing cardiac cath labs. The hospitals will serve as the initial sites in the cardiovascular telerobotic network.

As well, the funding will support creating an education and training center at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids to train health care workers on robotics and telerobotics.

The Helmsley Charitable Trust reached out to Spectrum Health after following Madder’s telerobotics research, he said.

“Bringing robotics into the cath lab can help improve patient outcomes and extend a physician’s ability to practice medicine,” Walter Panzirer, a trustee at the Helmsley Charitable Trust, said in a statement. “Hospitals serving rural patients should have access to technology that can level the playing field.”

The Helmsley Charitable Trust provides support for health care and medical research, plus conservation, education, social services, and culture. The trust since 2008 has awarded more than $3.5 billion in grants to a range of charitable purposes.

The initiative at Spectrum Health will first test telerobotics on simulators and through flow models “with the hope that one day we’ll have the ability, once we show that this is safe, to eventually study this in humans,” Madder said.

Based on the research he’s done on telerobotics, Madder believes that “we have the technical ability to do this now.”

“We think it holds significant promise to improve care in rural areas. We’re committed to continue to study this to really try to take it forward,” he said.

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