OTELO consortium to organise a tele-echography live demonstration in Italy

Avezzano 18 March 2004In the frame of the European Commission IST Programme, the OTELO team has organised a live demonstration on a satellite-based robotic tele-echography system. The system is designed for providing fully integrated end-to-end mobile tele-echography examinations dedicated to population groups isolated from medical facilities, either temporarily or permanently, and especially from ultrasound experts. The demonstration was organised in Avezzano, Italy at Elsacom Gateway, one of the project consortium members. The OTELO project, partially funded by the European Commission, is led by nine partners originating from five countries including France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Greece.

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OTELO offers an alternative to medical centres that lack ultrasound specialists. It is a portable ultrasound probe holder robotic system, associated with state of the art communications technologies that reproduces the expert's hand movements to perform at a distance an ultrasound examination. Although being held by a non-specialised paramedic on the remote site, the robotic system brings, in real time, good ultrasound image quality back to the expert site, where force feedback control is combined with virtual reality for the rendering of the distant environment, in order to perform a diagnosis.

OTELO is a remotely controlled system designed to guarantee a reliable echographic diagnosis at an isolated site far away from an expert MD located at the expert clinical site in the University Hospital or the Ultrasound expert centre. A non-ultrasound specialist is present next to the patient at the isolated site or in a rescue vehicle, and a transmission system providing audio, video or robot data is the only link between the two sites.

OTELO consists of a portable device for remote echography including an ultrasound probe holder robot at the patient station; a fictive probe at the expert site, allowing the expert to control the robot; and a communication and a videoconference link between the two sites. At the expert station site, the clinical expert's role is to control and tele-operate the distant robot by holding the fictive probe. He visualizes in real time the patient ultrasound images on a control screen and continuously receives force feedback information from the patient station. The haptic information is a necessity for the specialist as ultrasound examination requires good hand-to-eye co-ordination and the ability to integrate the acquired information over time and space.

At the patient site, a six degree-of-freedom probe holder robot reproduces the movements performed by the expert on the fictive probe. The system is able to handle various types of manufactured ultrasound probes. Its mechanical structure is light weight, easy to handle and has to maintain a continuous contact with the patient's skin thanks to a force control. The actuators driving the robotic system are chosen to give the best response time despite delays introduced naturally by communication links which could be constant, time-varying, or even random.

The communication/videoconference link between the two sites allows discussion on medical information or robot positioning between the expert and the paramedic, and also enables the expert to comfort the patient throughout the examination.

The main objective of the OTELO project is dedicated to the development of an advanced tele-echography system, which will bring to population groups preventive care support using the latest mobile robotic based ultrasound techniques.

OTELO allows doctors and ultrasound specialists to create the personalised patient data records and tele-echography imaging profile including information regarding diagnosis, examination plan and any other information or direction to the remote patients and from their offices. After completing the review of the developed diagnosis, the physician will forward the plan to the patient via the OTELO service, which will then allow the remote and mobile nurse or the non-specialist to take the proper treatment actions and log the patient's case for further analysis or transfer to a specialist unit if necessary.

Services to patients will be provided by means of a patient-OTELO portable and compact slave unit. With such a service, the patient at home or the remote area can be in complete interaction with the specialist during the remote in-house examination, and can request disease-specific information. The service is also important for a second opinion diagnosis that can be provided from another distant expert centre.

OTELO targets the world market of personal health services. The area is very wide, and the application of advanced technologies poses an important business opportunity. OTELO is a service that will be primarily provided to hospitals, clinics, or other health institutions and physicians dealing with emergent or non-hospitalised patients. National Health Systems and private or public hospitals are considered the most important "client groups" to whom OTELO will be targeted first. Hence for commercial exploitation purposes NHS institutions and hospitals are analysed as a primary client of OTELO.

More information about the project is available at the OTELO Web site and in the VMW January 2004 article Otelo project members demonstrate robotic tele-echography between Tours, Barcelona and Nicosia.


Pierre Vieyres, Ph.D., OTELO project manager

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