If the Pixar animated robot “Wall-E” was a doctor, this may be what he looks like. Designed by Modo, the maker of specialized carts for the healthcare industry, this unintimidating device goes by the name “Practitioner Cart ™HDX™.” What makes it such a wonder of design is that it houses 14 separate telemedical technology components from Polycom and more than 97 feet of cabling in a footprint that is smaller than an office chair.
Compact enough to fit in a doctor’s small exam room, the Practitioner allows doctors in rural or remote areas to consult with experts from urban research centers. Instead of just describing symptoms, off-site physicians can interact face-to-face with patients. Modo CEO Bob Marchant explains, “In addition to making the equipment responsive, we lowered the video image to a comfortable, conversational height, so the physician’s image and voice are at the level of a seated patient.”
Live digital video and high-speed satellite connections give the offsite doctor the ability to diagnose illnesses in real time, without requiring patients to travel. A high-resolution digital camera can provide close-ups of skin lesions; a digital stethoscope can take heart rate and blood pressure readings, and x-rays can be uploaded for immediate viewing. Modo design manager Goo Sung says that “Using the system is as easy as having a conversation. There is no start-up calibration. You simply turn it on and talk to your doctor. No one wants to wait when their health is at risk.”
Currently approved for sale in the U.S., Europe and Asia, the Practitioner is also finding wide use for professional development classes, certification programs and training. Marchant adds, “Doctors find the system particularly useful for keeping colleagues up-to-date within urban hospital networks.”
Although the Practitioner is designed for use in healthcare facilities with a medical professional guiding the session, Marchant foresees a time when such systems find their way into homes. “Future generations of related technologies are already in development for home users.”