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Robo-docs: RP-VITA bot now in 7 hospitals

RP-VITA can navigate to your room to put you in touch with a doctor, and it's being used in everything from newborn care to stroke treatment.

RP-VITA is designed to make doctors more widely available through telepresence.

Would you mind if your doctor were treating you through a display on top of a robot? What if that display could save your life?

Well, that could be the case if you find yourself at one of seven U.S. and Mexican hospitals that have deployed the RP-VITA telepresence robot, which obtained FDA approval earlier this year as the first of its kind.

RP-VITA, which stands for Remote Presence Virtual + Independent Telemedicine Assistant, is now on hand at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, five other medical centers in the U.S., and one in Mexico City, developers iRobot and InTouch Health announced today.

"During a stroke, the loss of a few minutes can mean the difference between preserving or losing brain function," the companies quoted Paul Vespa, director of neurocritical care at the Reagan Center, as saying in a release.

"The new technology enables me to concentrate on caring for my patient without being distracted by the need to set up and manage its technological features."

As seen in the pic above, the 5-foot, iPad-controlled robot is like a roving Webcam projecting a remote doctor's face and voice for interaction with patients, doctors, and nurses.

It can navigate hospital wards autonomously, and is being billed as the first telepresence robot that won't disrupt existing hospital procedures. Since it has a map that's integrated with hospital records, it can find patients automatically.

It's been deployed for the TeleStroke, TeleICU, TelePsych, and TelePediatric programs at the care centers, which include Dignity Health in Sacramento, Calif.; Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Orange County, Calif.; Instituto de Salud del Estado de Mexico in Mexico City; Ohio State Wexner Medical Center in Columbus; Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, Calif.; and St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington, W. Va.

With more applications on the way, these seven centers could be the first of many.

"I believe telemedicine is now reaching an inflection point where its presence in healthcare will grow at an exponential pace because telemedicine has become easy to use," said Yulun Wang, CEO of InTouch Health.