“Telemedicine is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve patients’ health status. Closely associated with telemedicine is the term “telehealth,” which is often used to encompass a broader definition of remote healthcare that does not always involve clinical services. Videoconferencing, transmission of still images, e-health including patient portals, remote monitoring of vital signs, continuing medical education and nursing call center are all considered part of telemedicine and telehealth.”*
Our device is known as the iRobot VITA or the RP-VITA, which stands for “Remote Presence – Virtual & Independent Telepresence Assistant.” These robots were designed by InTouch Health, a technology manufacturer located in Santa Barbara, CA which specializes in “telehealth.”
The Health Resources & Services Administration defines this term as “the use of information and communications technologies for the support and enhancement of health care.” InTouch Health envisioned the RP-VITA robot as a means of carrying such technology one step further, by means of a new device that would provide telepresence-based interaction between patients and physicians.
In 2011, Massachusetts-based robotics company iRobot Corp. entered into a joint development and licensing agreement with InTouch Health. iRobot Corp. set about manufacturing mobile, interactive robots based on inTouch Health’s original vision. The two companies emphasized each other’s contributions as they were promoting the finished project, marketing it as “the first remote presence solution for patient care that combines autonomous navigation and mobility from iRobot with telemedicine technology from InTouch Health.”
The RP-VITA robot was formally unveiled in 2012 and received 501(k) clearance from the Food and Drug Administration the same year, which authorized the invention for hospital usage. Multiple hospitals acquired the device when it was launched into the healthcare market in May 2013, starting with InTouch Health’s native Los Angeles– the UCLA Medical Center and the Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center were among the first hospitals to feature these robots.
The device soon expanded outside of California and even down into Mexico: the first Mexican, and non-U.S., hospital to acquire an RP-VITA was the Instituto de Salud del Estado de Mexico in the city of Toluca. By 2014, over 1,000 RP-VITA’s had been leased to hospitals across the country; the device had gained the affectionate nickname “Dr. Robot” along the way.
“Telemedicine Glossary – The Source.” Accessed March 1, 2018. http://thesource.americantelemed.org/resources/telemedicine-glossary.