RP-VITA will soon be a doing the rounds at American hospitals

The RP-VITA robot: a medical avatar

A result of combined robotics and telemedicine technologies, the Remote Presence Virtual + Independent Telemedicine Assistant, or RP-VITA, is the world’s first human-size mobile medical robot, approved by the FDA for hospital use in the US. It will start operating in a few months’ time.

How does RP-VITA work?

Featuring a state-of-the-art navigation system and obstacle detection technology, the robot can move around a medical environment autonomously, from its control station to the patient’s bedside.

Controlled by a healthcare professional via a simple iPad interface, RP-VITA can interface with diagnostic devices, access electronic medical records and send data to doctors in real time. It also features facial recognition capabilities, an RFID reader to read RFID tags on the patient in order to schedule and monitor treatment, and diagnostic tools such as an electronic stethoscope and an ultrasound system.

Thanks to its interactive multimedia screen, patients and their family members can interact with doctors, either remotely or from the hospital room via a smartphone. Similarly, doctors and nurses can get in touch and make faster decisions.

Costing between $4,000 and $6,000 a month to run, RP-VITA was the brainchild of two American companies: telemedicine specialists InTouch Health and iRobot who have specialised in designing robots for domestic or military use since 1991.

See the video of RP-VITA

Is the robot the future of mankind?

This is one of the fundamental questions raised by an exhibition called “And God created the robot” currently showing at the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris.

By giving the green light for the use of the RP-VITA robot, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is at any rate acknowledging that robots are a solution for the future of healthcare in the United States, in order to maintain and even improve efficiency and quality of care whilst reducing costs.

An agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the FDA is in charge of protecting and promoting public health by regulating and supervising pharmaceutical drugs and certain treatment processes.

The FDA’s approval of RP-VITA is part of a joint robotics programme launched in 2010 by five government agencies to develop medical, military, scientific, agricultural and bomb disposal robots