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In UCLA’s Intensive Care Unit, Dr. Neil Martin checks on his patient Timothy Copeland via the RP-6 remote-controlled robot. This 5-foot, 6-inch tall rover, with its camera and microphone, allows physicians to make rounds while sitting at a computer console that can be miles away.
The RP-6 has 24 infrared sensors that help a doctor steer the robot from bed to bed through a crowded hospital. Patients hear the doctor’s voice, as well as see his or her face on a video screen. The monitor/head can tilt and twist, allowing for gestures that – who knows – maybe can enhance the robot’s bedside manner.
UCLA Medical Center is testing the RP-6 robot as a way to extend the reach of its intensivists – doctors who specialize in intensive care. Studies in ICUs have shown that morbidity, mortality, length of stay and cost of care can all be reduced with intensivists on staff. There are, however, fewer than 6,000 practicing intensivists in the United States today.
The RP-6 robot, made by InTouch Health Inc., is already in use in a dozen hospitals. In a study done by Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md., half the patients preferred a virtual visit by their own doctor to a real visit by another physician.
-- LiveScience Staff