RP-VITA Robot Now in Seven Hospitals and Medical Centers
This week at the ATA Annual International Meeting & Trade Show in Austin, Texas, InTouch Health revealed seven hospitals and medical systems that are using the company’s telemedicine robot RP-VITA. Some will remember that the 5’4’’ machine with autonomous navigation capabilities was unveiled last July in partnership with robotics company iRobot Corp. RP-VITA has since received FDA clearance as a Class II medical device and has rolled out onto medical facility floors.
Now hospitals from Ohio to Mexico are using the robot as part of their telemedicine programs, with many specifically using it to care for stroke patients. RP-VITA essentially lets physicians travel to a location that they couldn’t otherwise access immediately. Whether they’re positioned miles from a patient or are in a neighboring hospital building, they can call into RP-VITA and be present remotely.
“During a stroke, the loss of a few minutes can mean the difference between preserving or losing brain function,” Paul Vespa, MD, professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said in a press release. The David Geffen School was one of the first to use RP-VITA and was involved in its clinical development. The idea is to use its telemedicine functions, combined with its mobility, to deliver the right expertise as soon as it’s needed.
To imagine what the robot looks like as it interacts with patients, picture a slim life-sized computer with a screen for a head. That’s where a video of physician’s own head appears as he talks to his patient and the medical staff. Currently these ICUs, emergency rooms and patient floors aren’t buzzing with autonomous robotic activity. Rather, each of these units has just one robot shared between clinicians.
Physicians can see if they are free to call in or, alternatively, if the robot is in use. In the case of an emergency, he can call his colleague and ask her to end her call. RP-VITA also allows a team of clinicians working on one case to call in at the same time.
CEO of InTouch Health Yulan Wang, PhD, said that generally patients are receptive to having a robot at their bedside. He guesses it’s because they’re now living in a very high tech world. “We’ve been doing this for many years. The RP-VITA is a new robot, but we had a prior robot, which is the RP-7, and we even had a prior robot, which is the RP-6. So we’re very, very familiar with how patients react,” Wang said.
He sees RP-VITA becoming smarter over time as developers build upon it as a platform. Currently the robot can tell which patients are in which rooms and can travel to the appropriate location when directed. Wang mused that maybe the robot could one day recognize patients who are in trouble. For example, if a patient falls out of bed, RP-VITA could automatically call for help. But that’s in the future, Wang said.