Your doctor may soon be a robot, it is rumored. Sound like something out of a bad sci-fi movie? Well, maybe you should ask the doctor who appears on the screen of InTouch Technologies’ RP-7 Remote Presence Robotic System, a maneuverable robotic system designed to allow doctors to videoconference with their patients from remote locations.
Dr. Alex Gandsas, of Sinai Hospital in Baltimore and stock option holder at InTouch Technologies, introduced the machine to hospital administrators as a way to closely monitor patients after the weight-loss surgeries he specializes in. Since its introduction, the length of stay of its patients has been shorter. In Gandsas’s study published earlier this month in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, 92 of 376 patients had additional robot visits, and all 92 of them were medically cleared to return home faster than those who did not have a check-up. ins with the teleconferencing system. Shorter patient stays would be a welcome change for hospitals, health insurers and patients alike – all of whom have an interest in sending patients home more quickly.
While further research should undoubtedly be conducted by physicians who have no financial interest in the technology, these preliminary results are promising. The robot visits weren’t used by Gandsas to replace his in-person check-ins with patients – just to add more. Neither InTouch Technologies nor Dr. Gandsas envision the ‘Bari’, or so it is called, completely replacing in-person visits to healthcare professionals. Instead, the joystick-controlled system, which uses cameras, a video screen and a microphone, is intended to complement traditional doctor visits and to enable patients and healthcare professionals to receive advice from qualified doctors and specialists when required. otherwise impossible. Doctors may soon be able to give their patients extra daily check-ins and answer questions much more quickly, all while sitting at home or away from home.
However, Sinai Hospital is not alone in using this technology. Robots have been used for some time to aid in patient care, including guiding stroke patients through therapy and helping them play video games. Many prosthetic devices are now at least partially robotic, and without some amount of robotic technology, the public wouldn’t be able to interact with such great minds as Steven Hawkins.
Johns Hopkins also has an automated teleconferencing system to help communicate with patients who need a translator when one is not available in the hospital itself. The use of such technology could have hugely positive effects on Texas’ healthcare system, particularly in Dallas, Houston and Austin, which treats a large number of patients who do not speak English. Lack of adequate communication is a major obstacle to receiving quality health care for many Texas immigrants. In turn, lack of quality health care can lead to serious public health problems, including the transmission of communicable diseases.
There are currently approximately 120 RP-7 Remote Presence Robotic Systems in operation around the world, with plans to deploy many more in the coming years. China is already using similar systems to address the lack of medical care in inaccessible rural areas.
Dr. Louis Kavoussi, chairman of the department of urology at the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, was particularly interested in this new trend and conducted a study on the effect of the technology on patient care. The study showed no decrease in patient satisfaction and no increase in complications as a result of teleconference visits. The technology, Kavoussi said, is truly “vestigial” compared to other development systems. The need for fear is minimal.
Relatively few InTouch Technologies systems are available and further research needs to be done. However, if robotic teleconferencing is used to supplement in-person physician visits, it has the potential to dramatically improve many aspects of healthcare – from how quickly patients’ questions are answered, to how many visits they receive in total, to whether rural residents are already not getting proper care, how well (and even if) they get a translator to explain their symptoms. States such as Texas, with a shortage of doctors and a large number of patients who do not speak English, will particularly benefit from this. So maybe robots in hospitals need not be afraid. In fact, they can even end your unpleasant stay faster by a few days.
Being aware of medical technology is an important part of taking care of your health. How you take care of yourself certainly affects you as you age, and ultimately your wallet.