Robo-Doc Starts Making Hospital Ward Rounds

Strange feeling this might be:
robots at the bedside
© Imperial College London

Remote Presence (RP6) Robots allow a medical expert to visually examine and communicate with a patient from anywhere in the world, via the machine, using wireless technology, the inventors hope. The robots can also be used for surgical teaching and videoconferencing.

The robots are controlled with a joystick from a remote site. The doctor driving the robot can view the patient, ask questions and read patient records, view X-rays and test results from the console. The patient sees the doctor's image on the robots face.

Although the robot does not physically examine the patient it allows face-to-face contact between the doctor and patient, providing immediate access to specialists.

Parv Sains, project lead, Surgical Specialist Registrar and Research Fellow, said benefits include allowing patients direct access to experts worldwide and to the doctor who performed their surgery, even if they cannot be physically at the patient's bedside. "If a specialist is at a conference in California but their medical opinion is needed for a St Mary's patient or to deliver a lecture to junior doctors the RP6 robot provides an instant and global link at any time of the day or night.”

"Our robots certainly would never replace all doctors on ward rounds, but they are a communication tool which allows a doctor to have direct contact with their patient if they are unable to get to them,” Sains explains.

As part of the pilot, a study is being conducted to evaluate how patients respond to the robots, specific communications skills required for remote presence teleconsultation and potential applications of the technology in clinical healthcare delivery and training.; Source: Imperial College, University of London