Getting a check-up from a robot may sound like something from a sci-fi film, but scientists are closing in on this real-life scenario and have already tested a prototype.

“The robot at the remote site has different force, humidity and temperature sensors, all capturing information that a doctor would get when they are directly palpating (physically examining) a patient,” explains Professor Angelika Peer, a robotics researcher at the University of the West of England, UK.

Prof. Peer is also the project coordinator of the EU-funded ReMeDi project, which is developing the robotic doctor to allow medical professionals to examine patients over huge distances.

Through a specially designed surface mounted on a robotic arm, stiffness data of the patient’s abdomen is displayed to the human, allowing the doctor to feel what the remote robot feels. This is made possible thanks to a tool called a haptic device, which has a soft surface reminiscent of skin that can recreate the sense of touch through force and changing its shape.

During the examination, the doctor sits at a desk facing three screens, one showing the doctor’s hand on the faraway patient and a second for teleconferencing with the patient, which will remain an essential part of the exchange.

The third screen displays a special capability of the robot doctor – ultrasonography. This is a medical technique that sends sound pulses into a patient’s body to create a window into the patient. It reveals areas of different densities in the body and is often used to examine pregnant women.

Ultrasonography is also important for flagging injuries or disease in organs such as the heart, liver, kidneys or spleen and can find indications for some types of cancer, too.

“The system allows a doctor from a remote location to do a first assessment of a patient and make a decision about what should be done, whether to transfer them to hospital or undergo certain treatments,” said Prof. Peer.

The robot currently resides in a hospital in Poland but scientists have shown the prototype at medical conferences around the world. And they have already been approached by doctors from Australia and Canada where it can take several hours to transfer rural patients to a doctor’s office or hospital.

Read more at:

https://phys.org/news/2017-06-robotic-doctor-gearing-action.html#jCp



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By GIL