Robot doctors have their foot in the door at several U.S. hospitals. The institutions are experimenting with the machines that let physicians examine their patients remotely, saving hours of travel time each week. The robots are equipped with microphones, cameras, and databases that allow doctors and patients to communicate almost as they were in the same room. Many patients report they prefer the robots to flesh-and-blood visits from their doctor.
It's a routine that anyone who's been hospitalized will be familiar: the doctor rounds.
But for a smattering of patients recovering at a handful of hospitals across the country, including Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore and the University of California at Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, the experience is taking a decidedly high-tech turn as the patients come face to face with the brave new world of "telerounding" -- where the follow-up physician bares more resemblance to Robbie the Robot than Noah Wyle.
If patients are receptive and doctors are able catch as much as they would during a conventional in-person visit -- which initial studies indicate is true -- the use of these robots could not only give patients more face time with practitioners but also save hospitals money by allowing patients check out sooner and extend specialized medical care to more rural areas.
Kavoussi, who was already using the videoconferencing laptops for rounds, had worked with Dr. Yulun Wang, the CEO of InTouch Health, when Wang ran another telemedicine' company before InTouch.
But, after reviewing feedback from dozens of patients, he says, "we found quite the opposite."
Indeed, half of the patients surveyed said they would prefer a telerounding visit from their own doctor to an in-person visit from another physician.
Dr. Lars Ellison, who was doing health services research a few years ago as a fellow at Johns Hopkins, started testing the popularity of these virtual hospital visits by having hospital staff walk with the videoconference-enabled laptop as they saw patients
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