A team of neonatologists at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles have published a research paper indicating that the use of a remote-controlled, robotic telemedicine system in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is feasible and safe.
This study conducted considered 304 patient encounters on 46 premature and full-term newborns in a level IIIa NICU, the unit caring for the most critically ill infants. During each patient encounter, the infant was evaluated by both an onsite and an off-site neonatologist.
The off-site neonatologist used real-time audio and video communication capabilities and was linked to a remote-controlled robot equipped with a video camera, microphone, electronic stethoscope, liquid crystal display screen and motorized platform. The off-site neonatologist controlled the robot through a computer station equipped with a joystick, microphone, earphone and loudspeakers.
According to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, the investigators found that the robotic telemedicine system allowed the off-site neonatologist to accurately identify and assess patients and safely maneuver the mobile robot in the NICU. Agreement between the assessments made by the onsite and off-site physicians were good to excellent for most parameters.
"Telemedicine offers the ability to provide the expertise of specialists and subspecialists at places where their physical presence is not possible. In this way, it shows tremendous potential for improving healthcare delivery and outcomes in a cost-effective manner," said Philippe Friedlich, MD, MSEpi, MBA at the Center for Fetal and Neonatal Medicine at Children's Hospital.