Visiting a Patient from the Other Side of the Earth: the VGo Robot

When VGo Communications came to the Verizon Innovation Center in Waltham, Mass., the small company was looking to make big changes to its telepresence robot. VGo and Verizon engineers worked closely to take the previously Wi-Fi-only robot and make it ready for use on Verizon’s 4G LTE network. This project ultimately resulted in the development of a robust solution for stronger patient/provider communications and the forging of one of Verizon’s first innovation partnerships.

“Originally a Wi-Fi only device, the VGo was very limited as to where it could be used,” explained Craig Jackowski, manager of the Verizon Innovation Program. “By embedding 4G LTE into the robot, it can now be used [wherever 4G LTE connectivity is available].”

This update is good news for healthcare providers, who are using the robot to change the face of patient care. At Boston Children’s Hospital, for example, a fleet of five test VGos were sent home with patients to help cut down on post-operation time spent in a hospital bed. One robot was sent home with 2-year-old Aidan Tally, which served as a great relief to his parents, who were consequently able to save money and time by no longer having to endure a long commute back and forth to the hospital.

Now, VGo robots are being used on a global scale to connect doctors with remote patients. If a doctor needs an expert second opinion from the other side of the globe, they can easily access assistance with the simple tap of a button on the VGo App from their tablet or computer. VGo can also be used to connect patients with another crucial aspect of their recovery: their family. According to the VGo site, studies have shown that family involvement in patient care leads to better and faster healing.

Weisman Children’s Hospital in Marlton, New Jersey, is another great example of VGo’s impact in the healthcare setting. VGo helped connect patient 17-month-old Juan Diaz and his parents with eager relatives in his native Puerto Rico. Additionally, the hospital is using VGo to connect patients who need translators with helpers off-site, who say the video feature helps them communicate better by reading body language.

Healthcare and education intersect with VGo, as the telepresence robot helps students who cannot physically attend school stay engaged. For kindergartner Anthony Longo, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January, the VGo robot keeps him motivated and engaged with fellow students. With the help of VGo and visits from his teacher, Anthony was able to catch up to his classmates by the year’s end and has maintained friendships with the other students.

These are just a few examples of how the dynamic, four-foot-tall telepresence robot is zooming its way to the top of the healthcare industry. For Dr. Hiep T. Nguyen, Director of Boston Children’s Hospital Robotic Surgery Research and Training Center, the benefits of the VGo robot are simple. “This technology allows us to be very cautious, efficient and innovative at the same time.”