The Robot Will See You Now

Will robots become a routine component of the lab setups of future clinics and hospitals?

It’s estimated that 10 million Americans have directly benefited from telemedicine in the past year, more than double the number from three years ago.

A growing number of hospitals in California and other states are using robots to expand access to medical specialists, especially in rural areas where there’s a shortage of doctors.

Remote presence robots are allowing physicians to “beam” themselves into hospitals to diagnose patients and offer medical advice during emergencies.

These mobile video-conferencing machines move on wheels and typically stand about 5 feet tall with a large screen that projects a doctor’s face. They feature cameras, microphones and speakers that allow physicians and patients to see and talk to each other.

When a doctor is needed at a remote hospital location, he can log on to his computer and access the program. Then the robot’s auto-drive function allows it to navigate its way to the patient’s room, using sensors to avoid bumping into things or people.

Once inside the hospital room, the doctor can see, hear and speak to the patient, and have access to clinical data and medical images.

Telemedicine is getting more attention now as rising costs, provider shortages, and increasing demands for health care are forcing policymakers to seriously consider alternatives that were not looked at previously.

The growth of telemedicine, however, brings the need to address associated risks such as the potential risk to privacy, security, and patient confidentiality.

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