Diligent study has helped telemedicine researchers at University of Queensland to model a robot capable of delivering specialist medical care, virtually shrinking ominous distances between cities and remote settlements in the blink of an eye.
The robot named Eliza was created by the Centre for Online Health one of the world's most renowned names in telemedicine research. Which is affiliated to the University of Queensland, Eliza has currently begun work at Mt Isa Hospital.
Robots like Eliza can be wheeled to the bedsides of sick children who are in need of specialist care and yet cannot afford to be moved and can connect such children to specialists in far flung cities by means of video-link consultations. Local doctors take the robot to the bedside and thanks to a video-link, established via the Centre for Online Health, the sick child can see their Brisbane specialist on the robot's television-like screen. A built-in camera and microphone enables the specialist to see and speak with the child.
Eliza is one of four robots that will be commissioned over the next three years, thanks to a $335,000 grant provided by mining company Xstrata (Community Partnership Program), through the Royal Children's Hospital Foundation.
The robot project is an extension of the telepaediatric research led by the Centre for Online Health, in collaboration with the Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane.
An earlier model robot, known as Roy, is already a successful addition to the children's ward at the Gladstone District Hospital, in Central Queensland.
The Xstrata funding will support the development of four new robots which will be deployed in selected central and north Queensland hospitals, as well as employment of a Senior Research Officer to manage the project at the Centre for Online Health.
Senior Research Fellow Dr Anthony Smith said the new robots would enable the Centre to build on the successful trial conducted in Gladstone.
"This funding gives our research team the opportunity to investigate how this ground-breaking service can be expanded to other regional hospitals throughout Queensland and to evaluate its capacity to deliver high quality clinical care to patients, as well as professional support and educational opportunities to health staff in regional areas, such as Mt Isa," Dr Smith said.