Health care robot brings experts to bedside

A health care robot developed by iRobot and InTouch Health allows doctors who may be thousands of miles away to interact with patients at their bedsides.

Called RP-VITA, the robot stands 1.7 meters high and rolls around hospitals controlled by an iPad. The robot was designed to bring world class doctors and specialists to patients who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them.

Nick Barber/IDGNS
RP-VITA stands 1.7 meters tall and has a large LCD screen so that patients can see who they are speaking with.

“Imagine you had a stroke,” said iRobot CEO Colin Angle speaking at the company’s headquarters in Massachusetts. “Would you rather be seen by the world expert in strokes...or by the guy down the hall? RP-VITA is about allowing people to see specialists and have access to more sophisticated treatments, which leads to better outcomes.”

iRobot developed the robotics for the robot; how it moves, its ability to sense its surroundings and not bump into anything. Before it can roam around on its own, a blueprint of its working area is uploaded to RP-VITA. That allows it to be sent to certain waypoints throughout a hospital without having to be manually driven by a doctor. If a doctor or specialist wants to drive the robot they can, but the robot won’t allow itself to hit any obstacles.

Nick Barber/IDGNS
Doctors using RP-VITA can access patient records and the results of scans.

Doctors can converse with patients and hospital staff and can be seen on a large LCD screen at the top of the robot. For private conversations, a telephone can be pulled out of the bot for patients to speak with doctors one-on-one.

Doctors also have access to patients’ vital signs and the results of tests, scans and labs through the iPad interface.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the robot in active patient settings in January. The robot costs about $4000 a month to lease.

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