GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Spectrum Health is working to turn Grand Rapids into a hub for providing telerobotic treatments.

Doctors are pioneering research that would allow them to perform procedures with robots on patients thousands of miles away.

Dr. Ryan Madder, section chief for interventional cardiology, said the technology would benefit people in rural areas who do not have access to specialists.

“They get actually inferior or outdated treatments because the technology or the expertise to do those more advanced, kind of state-of-the-art treatments are not available in more rural locations,” Madder said.

The Corindus CorPath GRX is used on patients with Spectrum Health doctors nearby. Madder was part of the team that showed it could be used up to 3,000 miles away.

Using telerobotics could improve outcomes for patients who have heart attacks who are currently treated with medications and are often transferred to another hospital.

“In the setting of a heart attack those transfer times are associated with significant delays in getting the artery open and that results in a higher risk of death, it results in a larger heart attack,” Madder said.

Madder and his team announced an $8.8 million three-year grant this week to continue funding the research. The money was provided by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

“One of the things that it’s going to enable us to do is to develop the first telerobotic connectivity between different hospital systems in different states, so we’ll be connecting a series of robotic controls here at Spectrum to five different (systems) out in the upper Midwest and West part of the United States,” Madder said.

With the technology already proven to work on mannequins, the funding will allow the project to move forward.

“One of the things that the grant is going to allow us to do is to actually develop and build a training program, which will allow us to bring physicians and hospital workers from other regions of the world to Grand Rapids to actually train and learn how to do robotics and telerobotics,” Madder said.