ReMeDi

Objective:

In the frame of the project ReMeDi a robot system is designed that features medical tele-examination of patients. Successful medical treatment depends on a timely and correct diagnosis, but the availability of doctors of various specializations is limited, especially in provincial hospitals or after regular working hours. Medical services performed remotely are emerging, yet current solutions are limited to merely teleconferencing and are insufficient. Use case scenarios targeted in ReMeDi feature a robot capable of performing a physical examination, specifically of the two most widespread examination techniques i) palpation, i.e. pressing the patients stomach with the doctor’s hand and observing the stiffness of the internal organs and the patient’s feedback (discomfort, pain) as well as ii) ultrasonographic examination. Beside quality teleconferencing, ReMeDi features a mobile robot (placed in a hospital) equipped with a lightweight and inherently safe manipulator with an advanced sensorized head and/or ultrasonic probe; and the remote interface (placed at the doctor’s location) equipped with sophisticated force-feedback, active vision and locomotion capabilities. The system is incrementally built following a user-centered design approach, and its usability with respect to the patient and the examining doctor is extensively studied in real world scenarios of cardiac examination. ReMeDi will go beyond classical telepresence concepts: It will capture and process multi-sensory data (integrating visual, haptic, speech, patient’s emotions and physiological responses) into perception and reasoning capabilities making ReMeDi a diagnostic assistant offering context-dependent and proactive support for the doctor. Particular attention is devoted to safety aspects. The normative standards (both existing and in draft) and the results of ongoing research projects will be integrated in all the system development phases.

In actual aging societies, the demand for specialized medical care becomes higher. Nowadays in the majority of countries worldwide a lack of physicians is observed. Forecasts warn that this lack will grow worse in the near future. It is already visible with the limited number of specialists who are not always available to medical units due to geographical (e.g. provincial hospitals), time (after regular working hours) or other logistic constraints. This situation led to development of several types of medicine-related services performed remotely, ranging from Telenursing, Telepharmacy, Telerehabilitation, Telepsychiatry, Telepathology, Teledentistry, etc. to Telesurgery. All these medical tele-services are examples of the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for health, called eHealth.

The ReMeDi project addresses telediagnostics in clinical environments. A successful medical treatment depends on a timely and correct diagnosis. In the ReMeDi project we develop a multifuntional robotic device, which will allow performing a real remote physical and ultrasonographic (USG) examination. Working as a multidisciplinary consortium (physicians, human-robot interaction researchers such as psychologists and social scientists, and engineers), we want to enable remote examinations that come as close as possible to direct examinations and thereby follow the most natural and common medical techniques. Our goal is to make the ReMeDi robot user-friendly for physicians and acceptable to patients by enhancing (tele-)presence with intelligent autonomous features.

The envisioned system consists of a mobile robot – ReMeDi - operating in a hospital, and a remote interface - DiagUI - placed at the doctor’s location. The role of the ReMeDi robot is twofold: firstly - it acts as a full embodiment of the doctor; secondly it is an intelligent robot system equipped with advanced perception, reasoning, and learning abilities. It is extremely important to underline that ReMeDi will go beyond traditional teleoperated diagnoses; it will be teleoperated only if needed to improve the quality of the diagnoses and guarantee the patient’s health and safety in critical situations. Therefore, ReMeDi can be considered more as a diagnostic associate and as a first step towards a future, fully autonomous diagnostician than as a sophisticated medical tool.

Project-Website: http://www.remedi-project.eu/

Participants: Dr. Andrea Fossati, Thomas Probst

Partners:

University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE), Bristol Robotics Laboratory

ACCREA Engineering, Poland 

Medical University of Lublin, Poland

ICT&S Center Salzburg, Austria 

SSSA - Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Italy

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Switzerland

Wroclaw University of Technology, Poland