Telemedicine Robot Gets FDA Approval for Use in Hospitals

January 30, 2013

RP-VITA Telemedicine robotThe Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just given approval for the RP-VITA Robot to be used in hospitals.  RP-VITA stands for Remote Presence Virtual+ Independent Telemedicine Assistant.

This robot will help doctors connect with and treat patients remotely. This is the first autonomous telemedicine robot to receive US FDA approval.

 Autonomous robots have the ability to:

  • Gain information about the environment
  • Work for an extended period without human intervention
  • Move either all or part of themselves throughout their operating environment without human assistance
  • Avoid situations that are harmful to people, property, or themselves unless those are part of its design specifications
  • Adjust strategies for accomplishing tasks or adapt to changing surroundings

The RP-VITA telemedicine robot is easy to use because it will map its own environment and use sophisticated sensors to independently move around busy spaces without interfering with people or objects.  A doctor can use its iPad interface to communicate with patients or other hospital staff without being in their presence.

The robot also has cameras, microphones, a stethoscope, and a video screen that enables doctors to talk to their patients as if they are having a Skype conversation.  The robot transmits video, audio, and navigation directions.  It also can take medical measurements by connecting to devices like otoscopes and ultrasound.

This robot is a joint effort of two leading companies, iRobot and InTouch Health. iRobot has given the robot the latest autonomous navigation and mobility technologies while InTouch has incorporated state-of-the-art telemedicine and electronic health record capabilities into it.

This telemedicine robot will be used in hospitals to extend the reach of specialists who are not available onsite.  It will be especially useful in time-sensitive situations, such as when patients suspected to have had strokes arrive at the emergency room. RP-VITA will allow doctors to be with their patients remotely and to access important health information about them when it is critical.

The FDA clearance has given the robot permission to actively monitor patients before, during, or after surgeries, and during cardiovascular, neurological, prenatal, psychological, and critical care assessments and examinations. The RP-VITA aims to significantly improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs to comply with the goals of the Affordable Care Act.

Technologies such as these will help physicians to provide better care to the patients admitted to the hospitals and hopefully reduce patient readmission rates in the long term.

These robot-aided, telemedicine equipment will help seniors, who reside in assisted living and other long term facilities, interact with their physician and nursing staff, as soon as approved for use by such facilities. Though the cost of these technologies will be high initially, it is expected to go down soon as more and more companies are getting into the telemedicine related innovation.

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