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.