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mechanical, electrical, and software engineers for the Michigan R&D office, although he says he cannot speculate yet on how many or on where the office will be located.
“We’re looking right now across the spectrum from Ann Arbor to greater Detroit,” he says.
“Part of the proceeds of this fund-raise are really aimed at accelerating some of the development efforts that we have underway,” he says. “And that very well may expand from that initial launch into other things. But the primary focus out of the gate is to build some R&D resources outside of California.”
The company’s primary product is the RP-7 Robot, the one shown in the promotional video involving the stroke victim. Michigan customers include St. Joseph Mercy Health System, which is InTouch Health’s largest Michigan customer, along with the Detroit Medical Center, and St. John Providence Health System located throughout Metro Detroit.
The company is marketing the product for stroke treatment because that is where it sees the greatest need, since only a small fraction of hospitals in the United States have on-site access to a stroke neurologist.
A drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) can dramatically change the outcome of a stroke victim if it is delivered within the first 3 to 4 hours of the onset of the stroke, and other procedures can be performed if they’re done within a fairly early window.
“But you have to have the right diagnosis and you have to have someone competent in making those diagnoses, and typically an emergency room doctor will look to a stroke neurologist to make that assessment,” Wright says.
“A neurological exam is actually a very visual exam,” he says. The doctor is interested not only in the vital signs of the patient, but also facial droop, and ability to lift arm and legs.
“The reason why our technology is uniquely positioned for this kind of a scenario is not only that we can enable that kind of visualization and access to the images, access to the patient data all simultaneously, but you can have that access literally from anywhere that you have access to the Internet,” Wright says.
And, of course, the final component to InTouch Health’s product is the robot that allows the remote clinician to actually move around and interact with the emergency department as though he or she were there.
“It fundamentally changes the nature of the interaction from being a passive response to the people and the stimulusi? that are around you, which would be a typical video conferencing kind of scenario, to one where that remote clinician can really take charge, be proactive, create urgency,” Wright says.
Indeed, the promotional videos on InTouch Health’s site show hospital personnel walking side-by-side in the corridors with the robot, conversing with the specialist appearing on the flat-screen TV head. The specialist can be in any far-flung part of the world and control the robot using a joystick.
Right now, it’s all Internet-based, but next on InTouch Health’s list of things to develop is controlling its robots using cell phones and PDAs.