Telemedicine holds much promise for the healthcare industry, but also many challenges. Innovation continues to push the field forward though — most recently with two studies focused on the application and effects of the use of robotics in imaging.
Study 1: Imaging Across The Atlantic
A robotic arm, directed by Dr. Partho Sengupta (director of cardiac ultrasound research at the Icahn School and chairman of the New Technology Task Force at the American Society of Echocardiography) was outfitted with ultrasound technology, and used to examine the carotid artery of a patient located in Boston. Dr. Sengupta was located in Germany at the time of the procedure, and performed the ultrasound on his personal computer, over a low-bandwidth connection. The procedure took four minutes, according to Healthcare IT News.
According to Dr. Sengupta, “This feasibility and time-efficiency of long-distance, telerobotic ultrasound may help expand the role of imagers to care for patients online virtually lending a true ‘helping hand’ remotely and providing a patient’s care team expert guidance. Our first-in-man experiment shows long-distance, telerobotic ultrasound examinations over standard Internet are possible. Our successful experiment opens up a new frontier for the use of remote, robotic ultrasound imaging that could potentially be more efficient and cost-effective overall for healthcare access and delivery.”
Study 2: Remote Echocardiograms
The second study, according to a press release from Mt. Sinai, compared the results of robot-treated patients to traditionally treated counterparts. Patients in the test group received remote consultation and an exam using a robotic echocardiogram on the day of their visit to their local primary healthcare center, located over 100 miles away from the hospital. The control group received treatment at Mt. Sinai.
The results found that diagnostic process time was reduced from 114 days to 27 days for patients receiving remote consultation. Additionally, the patient wait time for obtaining a specialist consultation was cut from 86 days, to 12, with 95 percent of the remote group claiming their experience to be a superior strategy.
On-demand, virtual robotic ultrasound has many potential applications, ranging from timely, in-hospital or ED patient imaging studies, to community screenings, or even dangerous locations like war zones.
These advancements in the use of robotics are widely seen as the next step in the development of telemedine and telehealth.