The robot stands five feet four inches in height, has a battery life of about four to five hours, and allows a doctor to communicate with patients through a video screen at the top of the robot. A smaller screen below the live-interaction interface provides information to the patient about the doctor administering care.
Integration of InTouch Health's SureConnect platform, a cloud-based network infrastructure with advanced data encryption, allows for Internet-based audio and video connectivity from virtually anywhere to RP-VITA, Wright said. Through its WiFi support, the robot also can access live patient data from electronic medical records to provide physicians with up-to-date information about a patient's vital signs, lab results, and imaging date. Futhermore, it hooks up to diagnostic devices to allow a doctor, through the help of a nurse present in the room, remotely examine a patient, he added.
All of these provide a realistic patient-care experience that in some cases can even be enhanced by the robot's advanced connectivity, said Knight. "I can get data I never had over the phone," he said. "There's never been one time I've used it and said, 'That was a waste of time.' I always see something I wouldn't have otherwise."
Knight said RP-VITA's ease of use also breaks down the technological wall that can be an obstacle with telepresence solutions and allows him to "forget about the technology and just focus on the clinical needs at hand."
InTouch is currently marketing and selling the robot, which should start appearing in hospitals by the end of the year at a cost of about $6,000 a month. The company and iRobot also plan to make design improvements to future versions of RP-VITA, including a feature that will be added by the end of the year to allow a remote physician or bedside nurse to send the robot to a target destination with a single click, Wright said. Advanced communication capabilities to provide coordination among a team of physicians using RP-VITA also will be added down the line.