Picture this: a patient in a remote rural hospital requires a consult from a specialist. The specialist, hours away, pulls out his iPad and clicks on the patient’s room on an electronic map. A 5 foot 6 inch tall robot displaying the specialist’s face on a video screen navigates through the busy hospital hallways to the patient’s room using a complex system of sensors. The patient is then assessed by the specialist with another doctor or nurse in the room. The specialist is able to interact “face to face” with the patient and their onsite healthcare team. They can also view ultrasounds, electronic stethoscope results, vital signs and lab results on their iPad.
This may seem like a scene from a movie, but this robot, RP-VITA (Remote Presence Virtual Independent Telemedicine Assistant), was approved Thursday, January 24 by the FDA to be used before, after and during surgery in the areas of cardiovascular, neurological, prenatal, psychological and critical care. It is estimated it will cost hospitals between $4,000 and $6,000 to operate the RP-VITA. The robot represents a joint venture between iRobot (the makers of the Roomba vacuum) and InTouch Health.