North American Hospitals Adding Robots to the Medical Staff

EVA_Robot_3-prvWe’ve looked at telepresence robots before. These remote controlled, video conferencing doo-dads allow users to kick back on the ol’ sofa while still giving the appearance of working. Is it any wonder that this technology would be picked up in short order by American doctors, one of the laziest castes of professionals around?

iRobot, makers of your little floor sweeping buddy, Roomba, received FDA approval for the deployment of the RP-Vita. Now, seven hospitals in the North America have deployed the outrageously overpriced iPads on wheels (Thank you insurance companies!). Dignity Health, Sacramento, CA; Hoag Memorial Hospitial Presbyteria, Orange County, CA; Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, Burbank, CA; Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA; St. Mary’s Medical Center, Huntington, WV; Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, OH; and Instituto de Salud del Estado de Mexico, Toluca, Mexico have all signed up to allow these video laden Roombas free reign of their hospitals.

So what does the RP-Vita do for patients? Much like your normal doctor, very little. It makes you wait while it autonomously cruises the halls, compliments of thirty sensors to keep it from getting in the way of the people actually working. Upon reaching the patient, a camera sporting 120x zoom allows doctors to read the patient’s chart (provided it is properly hung up for everyone to see), look into their eyeballs (provided the patient can open them enough and hold still), then cruise out to tell nurses and technicians to do the real work. RP-Vita has no appendages or tools and is not equipped with any form of medical analysis sensor.  What it does do is allow doctors to pinch-and-zoom their way around to look at stuff, tell patients to take two aspirin and quit smoking, then roll off to berate the staff. The difference is that this is now possible without your doctor putting down his coffee cup, leaving the golf course, or having to be around those yucky sick people! Hallelujah!

Dr. Paul Vespa, director of neurocritical care at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, explains the importance of RP-Vita in this UCLA press release:

"Consumers nationwide are facing long delays in medical delivery, largely because the health care system can't provide enough physicians in enough locations. We need new technologies that revolutionize physicians' capacity to see more patients and greatly expand patients' access to specialized care."

Here’s hoping a breakthrough comes to cure that problem. If only we lived in a world where everyone carried a wireless computer in their pocket with video conferencing capabilities… If only…

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