Hospital in Italy Is Using Robots to Help Treat Coronavirus Patients

The hospital is in the region of Northern Italy where a majority of COVID-19 cases have been reported.

In an effort to keep medical staff safe, robots are being used to help care for COVID-19 patients at an Italian hospital.

Circolo Hospital in Varese—a city in northern Italy, the country’s epicenter of coronavirus—is using six robots to help staff monitor patients without having to make direct contact. The Lombardy region where the hospital is located accounts for 43% of the country’s confirmed cases and 59% of its deaths, according to Reuters.

“The idea was born when we thought about the risk of infection and we saw the situation of isolation of our patients,” Circolo Hospital’s Director of High Intensity Medicine Francesco Dentali told Reuters. “To avoid the risk of infection without increasing the risk for the patient, we thought the robot could be a good idea to take care of our patient.”

The robots relay patient vitals back to medical staff and are equipped with touchscreen faces that allow patients and doctors to interact with each other through messages. This lowers the direct contact between medical professionals and patients, thus decreasing the chance for medical staff to contract the virus. It also minimizes the use of in-demand resources like masks and gowns.

More than 4,000 Italian health care workers have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, and 66 doctors have died. The robots also ease the burden of isolation that COVID-19 patients face.

“These patients stay in hospital for ten days, two weeks, and they have to stay alone,” said Dentali. “And with this robot we can speak to these patients and we can try to keep the patients less in isolation.”

Along with China, the U.S., and Spain, Italy has one of the highest numbers of the coronavirus cases. As of April 3, more than 119,000 people have been infected in Italy and more than 14,000 people have died because of COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker.