Friday, August 10, 2012

The RoboDoctor Will Virtually See You Now

 iRobot announced its Healthcare Robotics division in 2009.

RP-VITA stands for "Remote Presence Virtual + Independent Telemedicine Assistant." Beyond simply providing a doctor with the ability to directly interact with patients from just about anywhere in the world, here's a brief rundown on what makes the RP-VITA unique among other telepresence platforms, straight from the press release:
  • An enhanced navigation capability that enables the RP-VITA to better manage driving and navigation elements so the health care professional can put more focus on patient care tasks. State‐of‐the-art mapping and Obstacle Detection Obstacle Avoidance (ODOA) technologies allow safe, fast, and highly flexible navigation in a clinical environment.
  • An additional capability for the RP-VITA incorporates autonomous navigation and is being submitted to the FDA for 510(k) clearance. This capability will allow a remote clinician or bedside nurse to send the RP-VITA to a target destination with a single click, enabling a number of breakthrough clinical applications. InTouch Health anticipates clearance for this feature in Q4 2012.
  • Real-time access to important clinical data, enabling a range of new workflow improvements for physicians, nurses and other patient care team members. For example, the RP-VITA can be integrated with live patient data from the electronic medical record and is equipped with the ability to connect with diagnostic devices such as otoscopes and ultrasound. It comes equipped with the latest electronic stethoscope.
  • A new, simple to use iPad1 user interface will enable quick and easy navigation to anywhere the RP-VITA needs to go, as well as interaction with the patient, family and care team.

InTouch, it's important to note, already has a fairly sophisticated telemedicine platform: the RP-7. InTouch knows what it's like to intermix robots with doctors and patients in a hospital environment, but there's more to this than just functionality: as a medical device controlled by a doctor who may be making critical care decisions, the robot itself has to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. And that's just for telepresence: RP-VITA still has to go through a separate certification process to allow it to navigate autonomously in places where having a software or hardware issue could have immediate consequences to patients, and to make this work, Ava's original sensor suite has been optimized for performance in a hospital environment, giving the robot the ability to spot things like IV lines and glass doors. This "point and go" style of navigation, where a doctor can just click somewhere on a map of the hospital and the robot will get itself there safely, makes the RP-VITA uniquely user-friendly.

To make a remote doctor as effective as possible, the RP-VITA allows all kinds ofClass II medical devices to be plugged directly into the robot, which will stream data back to the physician in real time. A digital stethoscope is built right in, but you can also plug in (for example) an ultrasound machine, and the doctor will be able to see streaming video. Also, to the extent that the hospital has digitized medical records, all of that information can be made available through the RP-VITA interface as well. 

Looking farther ahead, iRobot wants to expand the hybrid autonomous telepresence capabilities of this platform to tasks like business telepresence and industrial security. The former will be an interesting category for iRobot to tackle: there are already a fair number of players in that space (including VgoAnybots, and Suitable Technologies, to name just a few), and it's been hard for anybody to really get a foothold. If iRobot can leverage RP-VITA's skill at autonomous navigation in dynamic environments, there could certainly be some potential there, and we'll be watching closely over the next six months to a year to see how this new telemedicine platform ultimately plays out.

Via: "Spectum"

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