Successful Transatlantic Cardiac Sonogram Testing Offers View into the Future of Remote-enabled Heart Care
February 2, 2022
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–The future of cardiac imaging arrived at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH), an RWJBarnabas Health facility, and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS) last week via special delivery from France. The MELODY™ robotic tele-cardiac ultrasound technology is the first of its kind deployed in the United States for clinical use, and opens the door for providing patients with more access to expert diagnostic imaging in a convenient, telehealth delivery model.
The MELODY™ robotic tele-ultrasound system features a robotic arm, an ultrasound machine and video conferencing technology that connects the patient with an expert at two separate locations. Last week, experts in Naveil, France connected the system to the RWJUH and RWJMS Cardiovascular team, led by Partho Sengupta, MD, FACC, in New Brunswick, NJ. The team tested the limits of the system by performing several hours of trans-Atlantic diagnostic ultrasound imaging in real time over a routine 4G cellular network.
This system is being successfully used in Europe and Canada and has been approved for clinical use in the US by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The technology benefits patients through:
- Improved access to diagnostic ultrasound imaging expertise in real time
- Facilitation of earlier disease detection
- Reduced travel times and transport costs
Benefits to health care professionals are significant and include:
- Reduction in work-related injury from overuse and repetitive movements from manual ultrasound imaging delivery
- Addressing the chronic shortage of ultrasound technologists and sonographers in health care today, nationwide
- Reduction in exposure of providers to infectious diseases such as COVID-19 or influenza, or to radiation when the study is performed in the catheterization laboratory
Whereas the first MELODY™ robot in the US is located at RWJUH right now, experts envision the day when such technology is commonplace in rural community hospitals, pharmacies, rehabilitation facilities or even senior living locations.
According to Dr. Sengupta, who is the Henry Rutgers Professor of Cardiology and Chief of the Division of Cardiology at RWJMS, and Chief of Cardiology at RWJUH, and a member of the Combined Medical Group of RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers Health, making advanced diagnostic imaging capabilities available to patients in remote locations may prove to be a gamechanger in the fight against cardiovascular disease and toward reducing the impact of “healthcare deserts” emerging in small towns due to staff shortages.
“Imagine that a patient comes to an Emergency Department in the middle of the night and there are no sonographers present to perform the imaging exam that he or she needs,” Dr. Sengupta explains. “In the very near future, we can connect with a sonographer at another hospital or from their home to perform a cardiac ultrasound exam that could be lifesaving.”
Dr. Sengupta says he will combine this technology with new Artificial Intelligence (AI) cardiovascular diagnostic capabilities to advance cardiac care.
“Many cardiovascular diseases remain undetected for a long time and can be silent killers,” Dr. Sengupta notes. “Combining robotic tele-ultrasound technology with new and existing AI capabilities will provide us with a tremendous opportunity for early detection and treatment of cardiovascular disease in our communities and help us save lives.”
RWJUH and RWJMS clinicians along with representatives from AdEcho Tech, the MELODY™ system’s manufacturer, performed the successful transatlantic robotic cardiac tele-ultrasound test on January 24, 2022. The test was followed the next day by successful ultrasounds at RWJUH. Over the next two months, the team will work with sonographers to implement the technology for clinical care in order to make it available to the public later this year.