InTouch Health chairman and CEO, Yulan Wang
, brought a special guest to the stage with him a Thursday's opening session of the Wireless Life Sciences (WLSA)
Wireless Convergence Summit. After briefly discussing InTouch's vision for telemedicine – helping the healthcare delivery system do a better job. Wang brought out a colleague from Australia. Only the man wasn't actually on stage – he was communicating with the audience through InTouch's RP-VITA, robot.
|Yulan Wang on stage with the RP-Vita (image via Twitter)
Developed in partnership with iRobot (the same people who put the Roomba in your friend's living room). The RP-VITA allows physicians and caregivers to remotely interact with patients – providing spacial awareness that they would normally have to be in the same room as the patient to have. A Class II FDA approved device – the RP-VITA can have a number of devices attached to it – such as ultrasounds and stethoscopes – and can be remotely controlled using an iPad. The robot's camera is hi-res enough to allow viewing of paper patient records and the robot can allow doctors to speak and even point to indicate to fellow caregivers.
But Wang stresses that this isn't about replacing caregivers, but enabling them. It's a step beyond enabling access to what Wang calls “coordinating care,” to help the healthcare delivery system do a better job with higher quality and efficiency. “The idea is to get the right treatment to the right patient at the right time,” Wang says.
He cites the Michigan Stroke Network as an example – a network of Michigan hospitals equipped with RP-Vitas. The plan is to offer stroke patients 24/7 access to doctors by creating what is being called a telestroke network that allows doctors at hub hospitals to access patients at other care facilities. The robot isn't replacing the doctor – just making it easier for her to see more patients.
As questions arose about the impersonal nature of interacting with a robot (even one with a live video feed screen for a face) Wang asserts that it is surprising how well patients have adapted and, in some cases, literally embraced the robot. It's all due to the changing trends in the way we interact with technology. What may have seemed off-putting some time ago while gradually become the norm. Wang reports patients having end-of-life conversations through the robots and finding it perfectly acceptable. “I've recorded instances where children have come up and hugged me as the robot,” he adds.
-Chris Wiltz, Associate Editor, MD+DI