Deakin University has developed a robotics technology with force feedback that can allow clinicians to remotely create ultrasound images of their patients.
The HER (haptically-enabled robotics) technology was developed by Deakin University’s Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI), and received funding and technical support from Telstra’s research partner program.
The use of haptics allows medical professionals to remotely monitor patient discomfort by probing an examination area, which can be collected and compared to historical data.
Along with haptic force feedback and robotics, the technology incorporates 3D vision and full two-way audio visual communications.
The ultrasounds can be used to examine a range of organs and in abdominal blood pressure. Symptoms that can be diagnosed using the machine include abdominal pain, abnormal liver function and enlarged organs.
The device could potentially be used to provide medical imaging services to remote and regional communities. It can be operated by a sonographer up to 1000 kilometres away from their patient.
Researchers have already conducted remote trials using the technology, where clinicians in Melbourne have examined patients in several regional and rural cities.
IISRI director Saeid Nahavandi said the technology would increase the availability of ultrasound diagnosis for regional patients while minimising potential errors.
“A principal advantage of this system is the ability to translate the sense of touch to the operator. Haptic feedback allows an operator to feel and experience the remote environment, through the robotic system, as though they were interacting with it directly,” Nahavandi said in a statement.
“The addition of stereovision can improve operator situational awareness by giving the operator depth perception, which also contributes to the accuracy and efficiency of the ultrasound.”
Telstra and Deakin are currently exploring a number of potential paths for bringing the technology to market, including through partnerships with global health technology companies and Australian healthcare providers.
The research is the latest in a string of investments by Telstra in the growing healthtech market, which have also included the creation of its Telstra Health division and launch of its ReadyCare telemedicine service