InTouch Health's Remote Presence Robot for health care begins clinical testing in skilled nursing setting

Lebanon 22 July 2003InTouch Health Inc., specialised in remote presence technology for health care providers, and Otterbein Retirement Living Communities, an Ohio based continuing care retirement communities group, have set up a collaborative effort to evaluate the InTouch Health "Companion", a new mobile robot system. When used in a skilled nursing setting, the Companion enables remote health care experts to "virtually" consult with caregivers, residents and family members at the point of care, whenever they're needed, forever changing the level of expertise available in long term care. With the Companion, an expert can move, see, hear and talk in another location as though they are actually there.

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Otterbein is the world's first skilled nursing provider to use the InTouch Health Companion specifically for increasing the availability of health care experts to train and support staff. Testing will be conducted at Otterbein's Lebanon, Ohio continuing care retirement community (CCRC). The system is already being used at select assisted living and acute care settings to evaluate the feasibility of using the robot to provide remote training, coaching, and quality assurance into long term care communities around the country.

Otterbein continuing care retirement communities include independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing care. Skilled nursing services for Otterbein residents include chronic disease management, physician prescribed physical and restorative therapy, medication delivery, and care monitoring. Using the InTouch Health Companion, Otterbein's corporate team of clinicians and trainers can frequently and immediately visit with staff, residents, and family members to continually improve care by providing insight and guidance for specific situations.

The Companion instantly brings specialised areas of staff training, coaching, consulting and monitoring into multiple care facilities, offering improved management of the most challenging care issues for staff, residents and their families. This capability for experts to be virtually present at any facility on a moment's notice re-shapes the economics and potential for quality of care. The Companion serves to multiply the presence of experts while simultaneously lowering health care costs.

Yulun Wang, Ph.D., chairman and CEO of InTouch Health, stated: "As an established provider of speciality services, Otterbein is uniquely qualified to collaborate on the evaluation of the Companion in a skilled nursing setting." Yulun Wang continued: "Otterbein is looking to InTouch Health's technology as they think ahead to address the impending demographic crisis in health care, and the added challenge of compliance in skilled nursing, one of the most strictly regulated industries."

Donald L. Gilmore, Otterbein president and CEO, stated: "As a provider of skilled nursing services, we are very pleased to take a leadership role in advancing the use of technology in long term care to continuously improve the care we deliver to our communities. Installation of the InTouch Health Companion at our Lebanon community demonstrates how we can extend nursing expertise instantly when and where we need to, and further improve our staff education and our quality improvement systems."

There is a demographic crisis in health care. Over the next 10 years the number of elderly age 85 and over will grow 38 percent. The number of seniors requiring health care support will double. According to a May 2003 Department of Health and Human Services Report to Congress, the number of people requiring long term care services is expected to grow by more than 200 percent, from 13 million in 2000 to 27 million in 2050.

In 2000, there were 77 persons in the workforce for every long term care job. This ratio will decrease in 2010 to 60 persons, and in 2050 to between 14 and 34 persons, per long term care job. Already today there are over 400.000 unfilled nursing positions causing health care providers across the country to close wings or risk negative outcomes. Over the coming years, the declining ratio of working age adults to elderly will further exacerbate the shortage. Recommendations in the Report include the use of technology to improve recruiting, education and training, record keeping and patient care.

Incorporated in 1912, Otterbein Retirement Living Communities is a health and human service ministry related to the West Ohio and East Conferences of the United Methodist Church. Otterbein operates six retirement communities in Western and Northern Ohio. These retirement communities are in Lebanon; St. Mary's; Cridersville; Leipsic; Pemberville; and on the Marblehead Peninsula on Lake Erie.

Otterbein's ministry serves close to 2000 residents who have adopted Otterbein's unique "Come Grow With Us" lifestyle. Otterbein Homes also provides professional management services to Mary Scott Nursing Center in Dayton, Ohio. Corporate headquarters are located adjacent to the Lebanon campus.

InTouch Health Inc. is a privately held development stage company based in Santa Barbara, California, founded by medical robotics pioneer Yulun Wang, Ph.D. InTouch Health provides technology solutions which dramatically increase the effectiveness of health care professionals. The company is addressing the impending demographic crisis in senior care support, by pioneering the use of Remote Presence in health care with its "Companion" system.

Through a proprietary communications and mobile robotic platform, caregiving experts are projected to another setting where a patient or caregiver is located to provide care, coach and train staff, or monitor health care services. The InTouch Health solution leverages the time and expertise of health care professionals across multiple care facilities, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of care delivery. More news on InTouch Health is available in the VMW July 2003 article Experts and caregivers use InTouch Health's remote presence robot in state-to-state validation.


Leslie Versweyveld

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