Utilization of robotic "remote presence" technology within North American intensive care units

Telemed J E Health. 2012 Sep;18(7):507-15. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2011.0206. Epub 2012 Jun 27.


Objective: To describe remote presence robotic utilization and examine perceived physician impact upon care in the intensive care unit (ICU).

Study design: Data were obtained from academic, university, community, and rural medical facilities in North America with remote presence robots used in ICUs. Objective utilization data were extracted from a continuous monitoring system. Physician data were obtained via an Internet-based survey.

Results: As of 2010, 56 remote presence robots were deployed in 25 North American ICUs. Of 10,872 robot activations recorded, 10,065 were evaluated. Three distinct utilization patterns were discovered. Combining all programs revealed a pattern that closely reflects diurnal ICU activity. The physician survey revealed staff are senior (75% >40 years old, 60% with >16 years of clinical practice), trained in and dedicated to critical care. Programs are mature (70% >3 years old) and operate in a decentralized system, originating from cities with >50,000 population and provided to cities >50,000 (80%). Of the robots, 46.6% are in academic facilities. Most physicians (80%) provide on-site and remote ICU care, with 60% and 73% providing routine or scheduled rounds, respectively. All respondents (100%) believed patient care and patient/family satisfaction were improved. Sixty-six percent perceived the technology was a "blessing," while 100% intend to continue using the technology.

Conclusions: Remote presence robotic technology is deployed in ICUs with various patterns of utilization that, in toto, simulate normal ICU work flow. There is a high rate of deployment in academic ICUs, suggesting the intensivists shortage also affects large facilities. Physicians using the technology are generally senior, experienced, and dedicated to critical care and highly support the technology.

MeSH terms

  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • North America
  • Robotics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Telemedicine