Robots in medicine are real. They are becoming a vital way to visit a patient at home or to consult in another hospital. Now with robotic technology, the doctor doesn’t even need to leave his office.
Thanks to a mobile machine equipped with a videoconferencing system, the doctor-patient relationship is evolving. These telepresence robots carry items, follow a patient around and allow a patient and doctor to interact and “meet.”
They also save insurers and hospitals money as they increase doctor’s care while reducing office visits.
One robotic system, Vgo Communications VGo, delivers in-home consults and doctor-patient visits. A doctor or hospital staff controls the VGo robot’s movements and functions from their laptop or computer. They can remotely drive the robot around a hospital or a house with the VGo’s camera looking up and down to avoid running into walls, people or household items.
The system uses Wi-Fi and a 4G LTE cellular network to establish a connection to the caregivers, doctors, therapists, nurses, and others. The user controls the device while the patient responds to the videoconferencing system. As the product and accessories develop, patients will be able to communicate through hardware with urine samples, give blood pressure, test for diabetes and monitor heart conditions.
The VGo costs $6,000 and the company charges a $100-a-month service fee.
Another robotic system, the RP-Vita robot designed by iRobot of Bedford, Mass. was built in conjunction with InTouch Health of Santa Barbara, California. It navigates itself though a building by setting waypoints and letting the onboard computer do all the work. It weighs about 40 lbs. and has a sophisticated navigation system.
“It can accomplish this task [navigation] by two means,” said InTouch Health Marketing Communications Coordinator, Roselie Wright.
“First, the physician can manually drive the robot using our ControlStation App on an iPad, laptop or desktop. For the iPad this is done with touch-screen arrows for directional manipulation. For the other two ControlStations, physicians can use a joystick device.
“The second method of mobility is through autonomous navigation. Much like a Roomba vacuum that creates a map of a room using sensors, the RP-VITA can do the same thing for hospital floors,” Wright said.
The RP-Vita creates a map the locations to which it is assigned and collects data about each location, as in where a patient’s room is.
The user or doctor “…..can then click on that patient’s [location] and the robot will automatically drive to the site. It even has the capability of knowing alternate routes to a destination, should its way be blocked for some reason,” Wright said.
The robot uses two 2D cameras, a scanning laser, ultrasonic transducers, and contact bumpers to navigate.
RP-Vita has 6 degrees of motion freedom. Its height can be adjusted. It can extend its body from 3 feet to 5 feet. It runs on open source Linux-based software. Top speed for RP-VITA is