iRobot, InTouch Health unveil RP-VITA telepresence robot, let doctors phone in bedside manner

In case you missed the memo, there's quite a bit more to iRobot than adorable autonomous vacuums -- these days the firm works on military projects, consumer electronics and tablet-controlled telepresence robots. Earlier this year, iRobot even retooled itself to build an emerging technologies group, announcing a partnership with InTouch Health to put its AVA telepresence technology to better use. Today the two companies are announcing the fruits of their labor -- the Remote Presence Virtual + Independent Telemedicine Assistant, or RP-VITA. The project aims to combine the best of iRobot's AVA telepresence units with InTouch health's own bots, creating an easy to use system that allows physicians to care for patients remotely without stumbling over complicated technology.

The RP-VITA features state-of-the-art mapping and obstacle detection and avoidance technology, a simple iPad user interface for control and interaction and the ability to interface with diagnostic devices and access electronic medical records. The remote rig will eventually be able to navigate to specified target destinations autonomously, though this feature is still being reviewed by the FDA for clearance. iRobot and InTouch are optimistic about the unit, but claim that the RP-VITA is only the beginning. "While this represents our first foray into the healthcare market, the RP-VITA represents a robust platform," said Colin Angle, Chairman and CEO of iRobot, "we see many future opportunities in adjacent markets." The new telemedicine assistant is slated to make its first appearance at InTouch Health's 7th Annual Clinic Innovations Forum later this week. Check out the press release after the break for the full details.

Show full PR text


First to combine the latest in telemedicine with state-of-the-art autonomous navigation and mobility

SANTA BARBARA, CA (July 24, 2012) – InTouch Health, the leader in acute care remote presence telemedicine, and iRobot (NASDAQ: IRBT), a leader in delivering robotic technology-based solutions, today announced the companies will unveil the breakthrough RP-VITA (Remote Presence Virtual + Independent Telemedicine Assistant) at the InTouch Health 7th Annual Clinical Innovations Forum, to be held July 26 – 28 in Santa Barbara, CA. The RP-VITA is the first remote presence solution for patient care that combines the latest in telemedicine technology from InTouch Health with the latest in autonomous navigation and mobility developed for the iRobot Ava™ mobile robotics platform. For the hospital market, the RP-VITA improves patient care by ensuring the physician is in the right place at the right time and has access to the necessary clinical information to take immediate action.

The RP-VITA is a result of a joint development and licensing agreement the two best-of-breed companies announced a year ago and broadened earlier this year. An expandable telemedicine technology platform, the RP-VITA is the remote presence device component of a total acute care telemedicine solution which includes an integrated ecosystem of technologies and support infrastructure, all part of the InTouch® Telemedicine System. The RP-VITA will be sold by InTouch Health as its new flagship remote presence device. iRobot will continue to explore adjacent market opportunities for robots like the RP-VITA and iRobot Ava.
"The hospital industry is undergoing significant changes, and as we strive to maintain our culture of ensuring an excellent patient experience, we face significant pressure on reducing operating expenses and managing staffing and resources. New technology such as the RP-VITA that dramatically increases the effectiveness and extends the reach of healthcare professionals is required," said Richard Afable, M.D., M.P.H., President of and CEO of Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian. Hoag, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) participated in clinical validations as part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review process for the RP-VITA.

The RP‐VITA offers doctors the ability to take command of any clinical, patient or care team management process remotely. It provides a new level of mobility, utility and ease of use for healthcare professionals in the acute care market.

"The RP-VITA raises the bar for overseeing patient care remotely and allows me to proactively control a situation as if I were there," said Jason Knight, M.D., Director of the CHOC Transport Program and Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of California, Irvine. "The robot is so easy to use that I can forget about the technology and just focus on the clinical needs at hand." Dr. Knight led the clinical validation process at CHOC.
Some of the RP-VITA's new and unique features include:
· An enhanced navigation capability that enables the RP-VITA to better manage driving and navigation elements so the health care professional can put more focus on patient care tasks. State‐of‐the-art mapping and Obstacle Detection Obstacle Avoidance (ODOA) technologies allow safe, fast and highly flexible navigation in a clinical environment.

o An additional capability for the RP-VITA incorporates autonomous navigation and is being submitted to the FDA for 510(k) clearance. This capability will allow a remote clinician or bedside nurse to send the RP-VITA to a target destination with a single click, enabling a number of breakthrough clinical applications. InTouch Health anticipates clearance for this feature in Q4 2012.

· Real-time access to important clinical data, enabling a range of new workflow improvements for physicians, nurses and other patient care team members. For example, the RP-VITA can be integrated with live patient data from the electronic medical record and is equipped with the ability to connect with diagnostic devices such as otoscopes and ultrasound. It comes equipped with the latest electronic stethoscope.

· A new, simple to use iPad[1] user interface will enable quick and easy navigation to anywhere the RP-VITA needs to go, as well as interaction with the patient, family and care team.

InTouch Health envisions that the expandable RP-VITA platform will provide additional value in orchestrating team-wide care, as a clinical assistant to enhance efficiency and quality, and as a patient advocate to enhance the care experience.

"The RP-VITA is a game changer for acute care telemedicine, and it will become the cornerstone for many new clinical applications and uses. The RP-VITA is a platform that will immediately improve existing healthcare delivery models, and through additional collaboration and development will create new clinical innovations that we can only imagine," said Yulun Wang, Ph.D., InTouch Health's Chairman and CEO.

"While this represents our first foray into the healthcare market, the RP-VITA represents a robust platform, and we foresee many future opportunities in adjacent markets. Robots like the RP-VITA and iRobot Ava are easy to use and able to autonomously navigate real world environments. They lend themselves to a wide variety of applications in home, retail, industrial and other settings," said Colin Angle, Chairman and CEO of iRobot.

In January, iRobot invested $6 million in InTouch Health. This expanded the joint development and licensing agreement formed in 2011, which was established to explore opportunities for healthcare applications on iRobot platforms, including iRobot Ava.
The RP-VITA will be added to the suite of devices included in the FDA-cleared Class II InTouch® Telemedicine System. This clearance includes active patient monitoring in high acuity environments where immediate clinical action may be required, such as in the ICU and emergency department, to facilitate the rapid assessment and treatment of stroke and other time critical conditions.