Telepresence Robots setting Advanced Medical Use Milestones as Virtual Doctors

An increasing number of US hospitals and healthcare facilities are incorporating the telepresence robots in the treatment system. These robots can successfully facilitate the virtual ‘beaming’ of the physician at a remote location. This enables the doctor to attend to the patient even without being present at the actual location. These mobile video conferencing units consist of a head screen where the patient can see the doctor. Doctors can use the robots by logging on to them using a iPad, a laptop or a desktop system.

These machines move automatically on wheels depending on an elaborate sensor mechanism to avoid bumping. The machines stand at an average human height of about 5 feet. Besides the large head screen, the robots also feature microphones, speakers, and cameras to help physicians interact with each other. Many healthcare networks are using these robots to deliver optimum care in rural areas where there is a shortage of qualified doctors.

Dignity Health has been one of the major user of these advanced robotics system. The network, operating in Nevada, California, and Arizona installed these robots at their facilities around five years back. The key use of the machines has been to attend patients suffering from stroke attacks, when every second is crucial to save a life. The healthcare provider from San Francisco implements the robots at the ICUs and emergency facilities at more than 20 hospitals in California. The various departments where the robots are functioning include cardiology, neurology, mental health, neonatology, and pediatrics.

Doctor Alan Shatzel of the Mercy Telehealth Network confirms that the robots make it possible to attend to remote patient problems in minutes. With effective compression of critical time and space, the medical facilities are keen on not wasting a single minute on emergency attendance. The robots in discussion are the RP-VITA systems, developed jointly by the iRobot corp and In Touch Health. The FDA also permitted the implementation of the advanced robotic technology in providing effective treatment solutions. The Touch Health CEO, Dr Yulun Wang confirmed that the robotic systems could assist immensely in leveraging the potential of specialist care.

The telemedicine robots are now working successfully in around 1000 hospitals in the USA and rest of the world. This May saw the launch of about 50 new RP-VITA systems at different healthcare facilities. The renting cost of RP-VITA systems is $5000 per month. The auto drive robots can effortlessly move from one location to another within the facility attending to patient requirements immediately. Through the machines, the doctor can communicate with the patient. A medical assistant also attends the patient to follow the doctor’s instructions from the robot.

The machines have been saving lives with their advanced performance. At a recent situation, Dr Asad Choudhary, stroke specialist working with Dignity Health attended Linda Frisk, a stroke patient admitted at the neuro-intensive care unit in the Carmichael mercy San Juan Medical Center. Dr Chaudhary attended Ms. Frisk through the robot, redirecting her to follow the set of instructions. The patient reported that she soon felt comfortable in the virtual presence of the doctor.