Post-Surgery Rounding by Robots as Good as Rounding by Actual Humans

A recent study suggested "telerounding" by robots on surgical patients may be just as good as face-to-face rounding by attending physicians.

In the Archive of Surgery, 270 adults at three institutions undergoing urologic surgery -- including removal of the kidney and prostate -- were randomized to face-to-face rounding by the attending physician or telerounding by a physician-controlled robot. (The patients also received daily face-to-face rounds with the resident physicians.) Here's a description of the robot:
The telerounding robot is a 60-inch-tall wheel-driven device. The robot consists of the motor base unit, a central processing unit (Pentium III; Intel, Santa Clara, California), a high-definition digital camera, a flat-screen monitor, and a microphone. Data to and from the robot is transferred over a high-speed wireless network and is integrated with proprietary software. The physician connects remotely to the robot via a base station. The base station consists of a Pentium III desktop computer, a high-definition digital camera, a flat-screen monitor, a microphone, and a joystick controller.
Surprisingly, the study showed that between the two groups -- human-rounding vs. robot-rounding -- there was no difference in complication rates, length of hospital stay, and patient satisfaction. More findings:
  • 85% of patients could easily communicate with the physician via the telerounding system.
  • 75% of patients would feel comfortable with telerounding on a daily basis.
  • 67% of patients would rather see their own doctor by telerounding then see a covering physician face-to-face.
The website of InTouch Health, creator of the "remote presence" robot used in the study, is here.

Photo Credit: InTouch Health

(Also posted on The Efficient MD.)
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Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.