Technology the latest tool in Dr. James Gude's crusade to keep health care personal

  • Using a laptop computer to guide a robot at the Healdsburg Hospital, Dr. James Gude talks with patients and nurses from his office at Palm Drive Hospital in Sebastopol. A patient painted the picture on the wall.

    no credit/The Press Democrat

Dr. Jim Gude was at his Sea Ranch getaway one recent weekend listening to his Bach collection, walking his dog on the beach and reading two books, all while doing rounds with his laptop at hospitals in Willits, Sebastopol and Healdsburg.

This is the Gude life -- half in the classics and half in the future of what he calls the "paradigmatic change in medicine."

Gude, who has been a big player in the Sonoma County medical community since 1971, makes his current home base at Sebastopol's Palm Drive Hospital, where he's director of the Intensive Care Unit. Most of the time his dog, a mellow Airedale named Oliver, is in the office more than his owner.

Gude is a man who moves fast and talks even faster. No surprise that it takes a robot to keep up.

He believes that a big part of the future of medicine and health care delivery is technology. Right now that's a silver-blue robot topped with an LCD screen filled with the face of a critical care physician or other specialist who could be on the other side of the globe or across town and still do a bedside consultation with a hospital patient in Sebastopol, Healdsburg or other sites.

"I can do this from my kitchen table," said Gude. "I can do this from Starbucks. Isn't that neat?"

In 2006, Gude founded OffSiteCare, a telemedicine company, with his friend and colleague, the late Dr. Lewis Solomon.

The two, who met at Yale Medical School and worked together at Sutter and Memorial hospitals, discussed their ideas over dinners at Hank's Creekside restaurant in Santa Rosa.

"We founded OffSiteCare on napkins," said Gude, who with his friend came up with a way to use robotic telemetry to deliver specialist consultations to smaller facilities.

Gude has placed telemetry robots in the ICUs of Palm Drive, Howard Memorial in Willits and Healdsburg District hospitals. By the end of year, he said, there will be robots at Ukiah Valley Medical Center, Mendocino Coast District and Sonoma Valley hospitals, linking the smaller facilities to specialists 24 hours a day.

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