Rethinking Healthcare

VGo teleconference robot goes home with post-op patients

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A 2-wheeled robot with a video and audio equipment could help eliminate trips to the hospital for post-surgical checkups. And it could also cut back on expensive hospital stays.

At 4-foot-6 and 17 pounds, a 2-wheeled robot made by VGo Communications eliminates the need for several post-surgical checkups.

Equipped with cameras, audio gear, and a video screen on its ‘face,’ the robot allows patients and their families to talk with nurses and doctors in the hospital – who, in turn, can take close-up photos of surgical scars and determine what types of medications are needed.

The $6,000 device is part of a 5-robot pilot program at Children’s Hospital Boston – to test whether the teleconference devices can help monitor patients after they leave the hospital. Boston Globe reports.

“Eventually, I see a whole fleet of these robots being sent home with patients,’’ says Hiep Nguyen of the Harvard Medical School and the Children’s Hospital’s Robotic Surgery Research and Training Center. “With this technology, we’re going to be able to replace hospital monitoring with home-based monitoring.’’

Some of VGo's telepresence features:

  • Its head is a 5-inch screen with a camera and microphone attached.
  • It conducts 2-way video and audio consultations over Verizon Wireless’s high-speed 4G LTE network. Through its connection to the cellular network, it doesn’t need internet connection.
  • Its movements and functions are controlled by hospital staffers, who can remotely drive the robot around the house – using the articulating camera to avoid running into people, walls, and things.

So far, 8 patients have been sent home with VGo robots over the past few months, and the hospital hopes to test the robots on about 40 at-home patients before moving the program on to the next level: sending patients home early, along with a robotic companion.

Eventually, the robots might be able to measure blood pressure, take a pulse, conduct blood and urine tests, and then send those data to hospital personnel to review. The robots might even be used to monitor home-bound elderly patients who can’t make it to their checkups.

And since hospitals are under pressure to reduce healthcare costs, and the robots might help cut expensive hospital stays.

From Boston Globe.

Image: VGo

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure