First robot, networked tablets head to West Africa to fight Ebola

The first robot and networked tablets are making their way today to an Ebola treatment unit in Liberia, where they will give aid workers their first chance at sharing data about the deadly outbreak.

Debbie Theobald, co-founder and executive director of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Vecna Cares left on a flight to Monrovia, Liberia Tuesday night, taking the company’s own CliniPaktablets, a robot and the technology needed to set up a local area wireless network.

For doctors and nurses accustomed to scribbling patient notes on pieces of paper in any of the Ebola Treatment Units (ETU) scattered across West Africa, this will be the first time they’ll have access to portable computers that can share information wirelessly. It also gives them an electronic medical record system to track patients and share treatment and disease information with clinicians in other units and researchers in various countries. This also marks the first time a robot will be working in one of the treatment centers.

“I think that this system is critical to fighting the outbreak,” Theobald told Computerworld. “This is the first time they’ll be using digital records at all in any of the ETUs. Everyone has been using paper. If they have had a tablet, all the information they’re capturing is stuck on that tablet because they haven’t been able to data share across tablets.”

Vecna Cares, a healthcare IT company, will also be bringing the medical records system, minus the robot, to ETUs in Lunsar and Makeni, both towns in Sierra Leone. Depending on how well the VGo robot functions and is accepted in Monrovia, others could be sent to Sierra Leone to aid outbreak efforts there.

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