Children's Hospital Boston is sending some bedside manner home with its discharged patients via a pilot program that integrates telepresence robots into its regular post-op care regimen. Using five robots made by Vgo Communications Inc., doctors and nurses are opening a direct line of communication and observation between themselves and patients even as they recover at home.
The 137-cm robots go home with patients when they are discharged and are controlled by nurses and doctors back at the hospital. Equipped with audio sensors, articulating cameras, speakers, and a video screen for a face, the Vgo robots allow doctors and nurses to consult with patients and their parents and collect visual data that can help them adjust a post-op medication regimen or spot signs of an impending complication, all without requiring the patient to trek back to the hospital.
The $6,000 ‘bots are connected to the hospital over US phone company Verizon's 4G LTE network, so no wireless Internet is required. That means that sans a hardline Internet connection, the robots are capable of swapping not just voice or visual data, but data of any kind. Eventually, doctors at Children's Hospital hope the robots will be able to do even more with their patients, like perform some kinds of blood work or urine analysis and regularly beam the results back to the hospital, moving the normal observation phase of a medical procedure to the more comfortable environment of one's own home.
That's the next step. Right now, Children's Hospital is working to complete a 40-patient in-home trial of the robots to see how effective they can be. If it works, the hospital may increase its fleet of telepresence ‘bots and start sending patients home early, replacing routine post-op observation with a friendly robot companion.
See Vgo go below.