A robotic doctor that can be controlled hundreds of kilometres away by a human counterpart is gearing up for action.
A robotic doctor getting a check-up from many miles away may sound like something from a sci-fi film, but scientists are closing in on this real-life scenario and have already tested a prototype.
‘The robot at the remote site has different force, humidity and temperature sensors, all capturing information that a doctor would get when they are directly palpating (physically examining) a patient.
Prof. Peer is coordinating the EU-funded ReMeDi project, which is developing the robotic doctor to allow medical professionals to examine patients over huge distances.
The robotic doctor works through a specially designed surface mounted on a robotic arm.
Stiffness data of the patient’s abdomen is displayed to the human, allowing the doctor to feel what the remote robot feels.
This is made possible thanks to a tool called a haptic device, which has a soft surface reminiscent of skin that can recreate the sense of touch through force and changing its shape.
During the examination, the doctor sits at a desk facing three screens, one showing the doctor’s hand on the faraway patient and a second for teleconferencing with the patient.
The third screen displays a special capability of the robotic doctor – ultrasonography.
This is a medical technique that sends sound pulses into a patient’s body to create a window into the patient.
It reveals areas of different densities in the body and is often used to examine pregnant women.
It is useful for ultrasonography, for flagging injuries or disease in organs such as the heart, liver, kidneys or spleen.
The system allows a doctor from a remote location to do a first assessment of a patient and make a decision about what should be done.
The robotic doctor currently resides in a hospital in Poland but scientists have shown the prototype at medical conferences around the world.
They have already been approached by doctors from Australia and Canada where it can take several hours to transfer rural patients to a doctor’s office or hospital.
This is to support an initial diagnosis.
The human is still in the loop, but this allows them to perform an examination remotely.
The ReMeDi project could speed up a medical exam and save time for patients and clinics.
Another EU-funded project – United4Health (U4H) – looks at a different technology that could be used to remotely diagnose or treat people.
‘We need to transform how we deliver health and care.
This approach with robotic doctot is crucial as Europe faces an ageing population and a rise in long-term health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Telemedicine empowers these types of patients to take steps to help themselves at home, while staying in touch with medical experts via technology.
These patients were given equipment to monitor their vital signs and send data back to a hospital.
This article was published on the 27th June on Horizon Magazine The Eu and Research mInnovatin Magazine and written by Anthony King.
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