MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA -- Based on its recent analysis of the robotic patient care and support market, Frost & Sullivan recognizes RxRobots, Inc. with the 2015 North America Frost & Sullivan Award for New Product Innovation. RxRobots' Medicine and Engineering Designing Intelligence (MEDi) is a small, friendly, humanoid robot that interacts with pediatric patients during anxiety-producing and/or painful procedures to help manage their pain.
At 58 centimeters, MEDi is the perfect height to interact with children. It is programmed to perform simple and entertaining activities such as singing, dancing, telling stories, and playing games to reduce anxiety levels in children and even parents before a painful procedure. Once the procedure begins, MEDi talks to the child, explaining what is about to happen, what it should feel like, and even performs behavioral techniques with the child, such as breathing, to help manage pain and anxiety.
For the past three years, MEDi™ has been used at the Alberta Children's Hospital, Canada. In a recent study conducted at the hospital, 57 children were administered flu vaccinations while interacting with MEDi. The research concluded that children who interacted with MEDi during the vaccination reported 50 percent less pain than children who did not.
"Robotic technology is not new to healthcare; accurate, precise techniques that automate processes and simple procedures are prevalent in areas such as pharmaceutical automation and complex surgical procedures," said Frost & Sullivan Americas and Europe Director Tonya Fowler. "However, utilizing robotics for patient support presents value through an added dimension of intuitive interaction."
Originally derived from the NAO platform designed by Aldebaran Robotics, MEDi is uniquely programmed to use humanoid technology to enhance the delivery of care to young patients and their families. MEDi has been developed by leveraging cognitive and behavioral-based research, which makes the robot procedurally intelligent, creating the illusion among children that it is alive. Even to an adult observer, it might appear that MEDi™ is actually anticipating and responding to the procedural process.
However, MEDi's patient interactions are highly choreographed, based on routine procedures set by the hospital's administration and then carried out by the hospital's staff. For example, when a child is being administered a flu shot, the healthcare staff selects the appropriate program for MEDi to follow. The staff prepares the area for shot injection and administers the shot as MEDi talks to the child, explaining what will happen during each step of the process, and providing coaching and distraction to reduce their pain, anxiety, and fear.
RxRobots develops programs that are customized to hospitals' procedural needs, and through synchronization of these routine-based procedures, MEDi™ becomes a "companion, educator, and pain coach" for children. MEDi's petite size and roundish features are non-threatening to children. Furthermore, its plastic casing is highly durable and can withstand the rigorous sanitization protocols required in a hospital setting to prevent the transmission of contagions.
"As the healthcare industry shifts to an outcomes-based model, patient support programs are more highly valued, yet their success is not easily quantified," noted Fowler. "Therefore, the financial return on investment made in a patient support robot such as MEDi™ is not yet easily realized; nevertheless, as children are more cooperative with MEDi™, procedures can be expedited, which boosts the bottom line."
Currently, RxRobots' primary customers are large hospitals, but the company recognizes that MEDi's applications can extend beyond the hospital environment into pharmacies, private clinics, and hospice facilities. RxRobots' expansion plans are consistent with Frost & Sullivan's projections as to where and how robotics can be effectively deployed to enhance patient care and support.
"RxRobots has done a remarkably good job of understanding customer needs in the robotic patient care and support industry, as well as developing an innovative new product to address those needs," said Frost & Sullivan Global President and Managing Partner Krishna Srinivasan. "RxRobots is uniquely positioned for sustained success because it addresses the core issues that customers care about—quality, functionality and reliability."