Autonomous Robots Coming To U.S. Hospitals

The FDA has just approved iRobot's RP-VITA, an autonomous medical robot which interacts with patients, for use in American hospitals.

The FDA approved the country's first human-interacting autonomous robot for hospitals on Thursday. The RP-VITA, made by iRobot (best known to consumers as the makers of the Roomba) and InTouch Health, is a human-sized telepresence robot which allows doctors to remotely interact with hospital patients. The robot can navigate hospital corridors autonomously, while medical professionals talk and interact with patients through a special iPad app. The Food and Drug Administration has given the RP-VITA full 510(k) clearance for hospital use.

The RP-VITA is a boon for doctors; apart from letting specialists anywhere in the world communicate with patients, it also has data ports that connect to digital stethoscopes, otoscopes, and ultrasound imaging. Digital medical records are also integrated into VITA. Another of iRobot's creations, the FirstLook, recently visited the Fast Company offices.

[Image: iRobot]

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  • Ellie K

    This seems like a profoundly bad idea, with the exception of physically remote locations. Even that situation is questionable. If a hospital location were that remote, I doubt there would be resources available to maintain an autonomous robot. 

    The practice of medicine is just like the physical sciences: Observation is part of the scientific method, which includes touch and smell as well as vision and hearing. I would want a physician to examine me ("hospital rounds") in person, not remotely using a robotic proxy, if I were so ill that I required hospitalization.