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Here is more information about Innovative Technology: Telepresence “Robot” Job Shadowing

By Elizabeth Kelsey Katie Turner, and Lily Apedaile

When COVID closed the hospitals to visitors and other non-essential people our team wanted to find a way to continue to offer pre-med ed job shadowing to the pre-med students at the University of Montana. Before COVID most medical schools required applicants to have 40-100 hours of job shadowing. Not only was this a requirement but also very important for students to understand what it was like to be a doctor and what it was like to interact with patients.

The need to keep job shadowing active was essential, and we needed to be innovative.

There are around 100 UM students looking for job shadowing. We received state funding to purchase 5 Double Robotics telepresence robots. We worked with St. Luke Community Healthcare, a critical access hospital in Ronan, MT, to figure out all of the logistics with HIPAA and maneuvering the robot around in the hospital. Then we worked with St. Luke staff to find a provider to shadow.

The first telepresence robot shadow was a complete success. There were 4 students and one person running the robot. We were able to listen in with the provider while she updated charts, we followed her on rounds to see 2 patients, and there was time for questions at the end, about a two-hour shadow experience. Students were from all over Montana. The technology was amazing and allowed for 4 students to get 2 hours of shadowing instead of just one student per provider -= and no one was at risk to spread infectious diseases (e.g., COVID, RSV, etc.). Also, we are able to reach students in rural communities who need job shadowing hours and they will not have to drive to Missoula.

The goal is to expand this offering and find more hospitals/clinics willing to take the robot for shadowing. The robot allows for 5 people to be connected directly to it to watch. If more than five students want to watch, there is the ability to turn the shadow into a Zoom video but patients might be hesitant to let the robot into the hospital room if hundreds of pre-med students are watching a shadow so that is why we intend to keep these opportunities limited. Overall, the goal is to ensure patient comfort, educate our students near and far, and appreciate the doctor’s willingness to expand the student’s education.