The Mayo Clinic, Phoenix, AZ, will be working with Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, to test the feasibility of using a telemedicine robot to assess athletes with suspected concussions during football games as part of a research study. With sophisticated robotic technology, use of a specialized remote controlled camera system allows patients to be "seen" by the neurology specialist, miles away, in real time. During the study, the robot equipped with a specialized camera system, will be remotely operated by a Mayo Clinic neurologist who has the ability to assess a player for symptoms and signs of a concussion and to consult with sideline medical personnel.

"Athletes at professional and collegiate levels have lobbied for access to neurologic expertise on the sideline. As we seek new and innovative ways to provide the highest level of concussion care and expertise, we hope that teleconcussion can meet this need and give athletes at all levels immediate access to concussion experts," said Bert Vargas, M.D., a neurologist at Mayo Clinic who is heading up the research.

This study would be the first to explore whether a remote neurological assessment is as accurate as a face-to-face evaluation in identifying concussion symptoms and making return to play decisions. Mayo Clinic physicians will not provide medical consultations during the study, they will only assess the feasibility of using the technology. If it appears feasible, this may open the door for countless schools, athletic teams, and organizations without access to specialized care to use similar portable technology for sideline assessments.

Mayo Clinic in Arizona first used telemedicine technology with the telestroke program in 2007, when statistics revealed that 40 percent of residents in Arizona did not live in an area where they were availed of stroke expertise. Since the telestroke program began nearly 3,000 emergency consultations for neurological emergencies like stroke between Mayo neurologists and physicians at the spoke centers have taken place.

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Medical Design Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2013 issue of Medical Design Briefs Magazine.

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