In a medical emergency, seconds count.
But if the doctor needed is in another part of the hospital or even another part of town, then those seconds can stretch dangerously. If only the doctor could be in two places at once, then countless lives could be saved. This is one of the most promising applications in the emerging field of telepresence robotics and RP-VITA (Remote Presence Virtual + Independent Telemedicine Assistant) – a joint development by the robotics firm iRobot and telemedicine company InTouch Health – is aiming to bring this closer to reality.
The idea of a telepresence robot doctor is surprisingly old. Popular Science editor Hugo Gernsback predicted “radio doctors” in the 1920s complete with remotely operated instruments, and in the 1950s he updated this to the “teledoctor,” which envisioned patients renting two-way televisions with robot arms so their doctors could make house calls.
iRobot and InTouch Health are working under a partnership and joint development and licensing agreement to develop the RP-VITA, which will allow doctors and other health specialists to not only visit patients remotely, but to robotically navigate through wards, access patient records and even carry out examinations. Before partnering with iRobot, InTouch Health developed their own medical telepresence robot called RP-6 that we reported on in 2004.
The RP-VITA is a combination of iRobot’s Robot Ava mobile robotics platform and the InTouch Telemedicine System. This produces what the partners refer to as a an “expandable telemedicine technology platform.”
The idea is that the RP-VITA would allow doctors or specialists to be on the scene as fast as possible with clinical information at hand, and the ability to interact with patients and staff in a relatively natural fashion via a television link. This would be particularly important in intensive care units or casualty wards where diagnosing and treating strokes, head injuries and other critical conditions must be done as quickly as possible.
via Gizmag – David Szondy
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