Monday, May 23, 2005

London - Science-fiction moved a step closer to reality on Wednesday when robots nicknamed "Sister Mary" and "Doctor Robbie" started work at a London hospital.

The pair allow doctors to visually examine and communicate with patients, whether they are in another part of the hospital or even another part of the world.

"This is a revolutionary concept which opens new avenues in telemedicine research and integrates technology with healthcare," said Professor Sir Ara Darzi in a statement.

Darzi, head of surgery, anaesthetics and intensive care at London's prestigious Imperial College is also a practising surgeon at St Mary's hospital in Paddington, west London.

The 1.5m robots are controlled remotely by a doctor via a joystick.

Doctors can look at patients thanks to a camera mounted on top of the robot while patients can see their doctors via a screen on the robots' "face".

Patients can be asked questions and medical records - such as X-rays and test results - can be read.

As part of a pilot study, patients will be assessed as to how they respond to the robots' metallic ministrations.