Don't be surprised next time you're in a hospital if you see a robot rolling through the corridors on its own.
Bedford-based iRobot's new Remote Presence VITA, or RP-VITA, will allow doctors and patients who are not in the same locale to connect remotely, with the robot possessing the ability to navigate the halls of a hospital on its own.
RP-VITA "maps its own environment and uses an array of sophisticated sensors to autonomously move about a busy space without interfering with people or other objects," according to a press release from iRobot.
iRobot received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for the RP-VITA, making it the first remote presence robot which can navigate autonomously, according to a recent report by the Boston Herald.
According to Director of Product Management for iRobot’s Remote Presence Business Unit, Marcio Macedo, the RP-VITA maps its own environment and then allows doctors located remotely to select their patient's name, prompting the robot to navigate to the correct room of the hospital autonomously.
The capability for autonomous navigation is what makes the RP-VITA the first of it's kind, according to Macedo.
"The contrast with the previous generations is where the doctor would drive a robot around the hospital using a remote control," Macedo said.Looking for updates on what's happening in Bedford business news? Subscribe to our newsletter, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Instead of worrying about piloting the robot, the autonomous navigation feature allows doctors to focus more of their time and energy on preparing for the consultation.
"Autonomous navigation gives the ability to the doctor to be much more efficient," Macedo said. "The doctor can prepare for consultation, look at the patient's record and more while the robot navigates itself."
The RP-VITA allows doctors not only to interact with patients remotely, but also with other doctors who might be working with the patient, according to Macedo.
"The core benefit is to allow doctors to be at a patient's bedside remotely," Macedo said. "A doctor can go visit a patient and also interact with the patient's family and other doctors and experts that might be there."
For doctors not at a patient's bedside, the RP-VITA allows access to key information such as patient vital signs, lab reports and patient history, according to Macedo.
A key benefit the RP-VITA provides to both doctors and patients is when a patient's condition calls for care by a specialist, such as stroke victims.
"If a stroke victim arrives in an emergency room and needs specialized care from a stroke doctor, the RP-VITA can connect the patient with a stroke doctor from another hospital," Macedo said.
Macedo said patients also often prefer to keep the same doctor even if they are moved to a different hospital or their doctor isn't always working out of the hospital they are staying in.
"With RP-VITA patients can have follow ups with the same doctor that did their surgery even if he isn't based out of their hospital," Macedo said.