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Remote-Control Robots Help Doctors Save Time, See More Patients
By Robotics Trends Staff - Filed Dec 09, 2004
More Service and Healthcare stories
Doctors at Oakwood Hospital and Medical Center can make the rounds without getting out of their chair or even leaving their house, thanks to a roaming robot called Rosie.

Known technically as a remote-presence vehicle, Rosie’s “head” is a 17-inch computer screen that transmits a color image of a human face.

The face in most cases is that of an Oakwood physician who may be in another part of the hospital or even another part of the world. The robot allows the doctor to communicate with patients in the emergency department at the suburban Detroit hospital.

“It improves your availability, while at the same time it can save me a trip to the hospital,” said cardiologist Samer Salka, a resident of Bloomfield Hills, 15 miles north of Dearborn, and one of two Oakwood doctors testing the robot. “There are parts of patient care that are expedited.”

Rosie, who went to work at Oakwood 6 months ago, is one of 10 such robots in operation in hospitals nationwide and the only one in Michigan, the Detroit Free Press reported November 15, 2004.

The robot is steered by an operator using a joy stick at a control station. It’s equipped with sensors to keep it from bumping into things. A camera and microphone allowing the operator to see and hear are mounted above the computer screen, which swivels 360 degrees. A similar camera and microphone at the control station transmit the operator’s face and voice.

“The resolution is excellent,” Salka said. “I can look at X-rays and other tests. I can look at tumors. I can focus on a little pimple.”

Rosie needs someone to push elevator buttons and open doors. But overall, the robot saves doctors precious time by covering more ground and seeing more patients than they could do otherwise.

“Patient-physician interaction is the fundamental building block of a hospital,” said Tim Wright, vice president of strategic marketing of InTouch Health, which started building the physician-designed robots in 2000. “All the decisions are made in that relationship. It all waits for that interaction. If a test result is ready at 8 a.m. but the doctor isn’t coming in until 2, the patient waits, the nurses wait, the bed can’t be used for anyone else.

“If you can have doctors interact with patients more frequently, you can improve care and reduce the time the patient is in the hospital,” Wright said.

InTouch asked a group of surgeons at Sentara Health System in Norfolk, Virginia, to perform a second round of patient visits using the robot in the afternoon instead of their typical single, in-person morning visit.

The hospital found that, in 65% of the cases, doctors issued additional orders that advanced the patient’s care in some way. They gave discharge orders in 19% of the cases. Patients who otherwise would have been hospitalized at least one more night were sent home sooner.

The study of 62 patients showed a reduction in stay of 0.29 of a day. That generated savings of more than $1 million a year from just one hospital ward, the study showed.

Copyright 2004 Physician Law Weekly via via and

Copyright © 2002 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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