HR Strange But True!
May 20, 2005

Maybe it will help ease the labor shortage in many health-care fields. Or maybe it's another harbinger of technology nudging humans out of their jobs. Regardless, two London hospitals are experimenting with a pair of robots - nicknamed "Sister Mary" and "Doctor Robbie" - that allow doctors to visually examine and communicate with patients from anywhere in the world.

Using a joystick and wireless technology, the doctor "driving" the robot can view the patient and ask questions. A console also allows the doctor to view the patient's records, X-rays, and test results. The patient, meanwhile, sees the doctor's image on the robot's "face." Although the robot does not physically examine the patient, it allows face-to-face contact between the doctor and patient, according to Imperial Hospital, which has teamed with St. Mary's Hospital for the project.

The doctor leading the project, Parv Sains, said the robots will give patients direct access to experts and specialists worldwide."If a specialist is at a conference in California but their medical opinion is needed for a St. Mary's patient or to deliver a lecture to junior doctors, the RP6 robot provides an instant and global link at any time of the day or night," he said.

"Our robots certainly would never replace all doctors on ward rounds," he added, "but they are a communication tool which allows a doctor to have direct contact with their patient if they are unable to get to them."

Source: Imperial College (A Reuters news story on Yahoo! includes an image of one robot at work.)

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