Delivering Remote Healthcare Services
Advances in technology are creating new opportunities for North American healthcare organizations to meet growing consumer demand services in a cost-effective manner. Digital videoconferencing services now allow specialists to “examine” patients in remote locations with the assistance of an on-site nurse or PA. Digital radiographic reports can be sent anywhere in the world with the click of a mouse. Within a few years, physicians will be able to easily review a patient’s electronic medical or health record (EMR or EHR) from office, home or hotel room.
One of the more intriguing recent developments in technology is the mobile robot – a communications device that can be operated by a professional in a remote location. In May, a California company called Anybots unveiled its QB telepresence robot, which resembles a two-wheeled Segway vehicle with a stylized “head.” It’s actually a videoconference system on wheels. “We wanted to create a technology that allows remote workers to collaborate more fully and feel part of the team,” said company founder and CEO Trevor Blackwell in an interview at the time.
Certainly, the healthcare industry could use a mobile videoconference system in a number of ways to improve service delivery and staffing efficiency. For instance, a physician could move the robot around for 360-degree look at an injured or comatose patient in the examination room. The device could also be moved out of the patient’s hearing for a confidential discussion with healthcare personnel on site. Academic medical centers could “rent” two-way robots to physicians who want to participate in grand rounds, but cannot be physically present. And healthcare providers, office managers and supervisors could attend staff meetings at satellite offices without the need for travel time. And those are just a few of the applications that may become possible in the next decade.