Vecna Technologies, a US based health information systems (HIS) developer, is testing an electronic health record (EHR) system and a two-way communication robot in Liberia that could help limit the transmission of Ebola from patients to doctors.

The robot, called VGo, which was developed by another US company, VGo Communications Inc, is a four-foot pillar on wheels that carries a display screen and a camera that can be controlled remotely using an iPad app. The robot facilitates two-way communication between doctors in a hospital, for example, and nurses or even patients in a remote location.

Such technology could be used by health workers to assess and treat quarantined patients without coming into contact, thereby eliminating the risk of contracting the disease.

“It takes 20 minutes to get in those hazmat suits. It takes another 20 minutes in high stress situations to unrobe because you know you’re contaminated,” said Co-founder of Vecna Technologies, Deborah Theobald. “If we can avoid that with caregivers with our patients, then that’s what we’re hoping to achieve with the VGo robot.”

Theobald is currently training health workers in Liberia on how to use the technology. The company’s philanthropic arm, Vecna Cares, is partnering with the International Rescue Committee, which has been active during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Theobald is also testing an EHR system that Vecna has designed for use in remote rural health clinics. The main unit, called CliniPAK, fits inside a suitcase and draws power from a variety of sources, including car batteries or solar cells. The unit can serve as a database for health records, and also host a local Wi-Fi network for remote clinics. Health workers enter data on Sony Experia tablets, which are dipped in a chlorine solution between patient meetings, which is backed up by the system as health records in a cloud-based database using cellular data networks.

Medical centres in Kenya and Zanzibar are already using the system.

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