In recent blogs, we have been touching on technology within the medical industry. A topic that keeps coming up in our research is telemedicine. Telemedicine is the use of information technology and telecommunication to provide healthcare from a distance. What’s good about telemedicine is that it can help eliminate distance and mobility barriers and provide a new source for for quality healthcare that may not have been available previously in rural areas. Recent developments in the use of handheld devices can further help healthcare professionals, continuing to add to their ability to view and assess patient issues as if they were in the same room.

Earlier this year, the FDA cleared the first telemedicine robot dubbed “RP-VITA” by iRobot. Developed alongside InTouch Health, the Remote Presence Virtual +Independent Telemedicine Assistant is a tablet-controlled telepresence bot that helps doctors care for patients remotely. With a push of a button on an iPad, the doctors can direct the robot to a patient’s bed. Sensors allow for the robot to navigate busy hospital hallways avoiding obstacles along the way. Once in the patient’s room, the telepresence interface allows the doctor to check in on the patient as if he or she were in the room. One particularly cool feature allows for a two-way video in which the doctor can see and speak to a patient. There is even a zoom feature that allows the doctor to zoom in on the patient’s charts or examine their pupils! Amazing.

Seven North American hospitals are now using RP-VITA to allow doctors to be in multiple places at once. A huge benefit to this telepresence is that, when it is more universally implemented, any doctor in any part of the world could help any patient in need. In the near future, we will probably seeing more of these robotic inventions as telemedicine continues to grow exponentially.