Telepresence robots are becoming a new standard of care in medicine.
Telepresence or “remote presence” originally developed for space exploration in the need to remotely repair space vehicles in orbit during the 1980s. Soon after this concept migrated to the context of healthcare where researchers identified the immense techno-medical potential to enhance the delivery and quality of medical care. Telepresence robots bring especially unique opportunities for healthcare providers to enhance and reimagine the delivery of clinical care. In 2014, InTouch Health and iRobot partnered to produce one of the most sophisticated telepresence robots in medicine to date, the RP-Vita.
The real-use cases of RP-Vita illustrate the vast opportunities of telepresence in healthcare, and how remote care may signify a major paradigm shift in how clinical care is delivered. We aim to uncover the complexities telepresence robots bring to clinical interactions and critically review how those complexities influence patient-provider communication. Additionally, this project aims to analyze the greater socio-technical implications of RP-Vita for communication in healthcare, and how robotic telepresence may both enhance and possibly impair the exchange of information between patients and providers of clinical care.
How does Vita impact labor relations? Is Vita “replacing” nurses? Is Vita positively or negatively impacting patient-provider communication? How is Vita affecting the overall continuity of patient care?
The above questions identify just a few of the concerns that we address in the project.
*This website is designed and created as a final deliverable for Course 506 at Georgetown University’s Communication, Culture, and Technology Program. InTouch Health and iRobot are distinct companies that collaborated to produce the iRobot Vita. We do not speak for either company nor do either of the companies have a direct relationship with Georgetown University.