It lacks the warm bedside manner of Marcus Welby or Dr. Kildare, but a high-tech robot being tested at The Johns Hopkins Hospital could be used to link patients with their physicians in a whole new way.
Vaguely resembling a human torso, in a Star Wars R2D2 sort of way, the robot sports a computer screen for a head, a video camera for eyes and a speaker for a mouth. It walks, in a manner of speaking, on three balls, talks, and most importantly, listens. "That´s because the robot is directly linked to a real doctor who uses the robot as it ears, mouth and eyes," says Louis Kavoussi, M.D., Hopkins professor of urology and a pioneer in robotic surgery. "And patients love it. I was very surprised how much our patients enjoy remote video interactions via the robot.
According to Kavoussi, the positive response to the robot supports the results of earlier studies done at Hopkins that found patients like using teleconferencing technology, in addition to traditional bedside visits, to communicate with their physicians. "Any technology that facilitates communications between patient and physician is welcome by both," he says.
Gary Stephenson | JHMI
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