A no-frills approach to telemedicine consults

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

A tablet stand that can be controlled from another location might just be the breakout mHealth device of 2015, finding a place everywhere from the remote clinic to the home to the hospital room.

Revolve Robotics shipped roughly 1,000 kubi devices in the past year, and is now seeing interest in the healthcare sector, according to Marcus Rosenthal, the company's CEO and co-founder, and Jeff Goldsmith, vice president of marketing. Derived from the Japanese word for "neck," the kubi is a simple stand that can hold a tablet or similar mobile device, with an accompanying online platform that allows a user at the other end to control the device, panning it around or zooming in or out.

"It's like teleporting somebody's head to another location," Rosenthal told mHealth News.

Rosenthal said the kubi and online platform – the San Francisco-based company did have an open API to allow app developers and other telemedicine companies to tailor their own uses, and now markets its own video app – can be used by medical offices and clinics that might need to teleconference with larger healthcare providers and specialists. Or it can be issued by a doctor to a patient, who takes it (and possibly a tablet) home for future online appointments.

It might even be used by large healthcare providers who can't or don't want to spend money on high-tech telemedicine carts or robots (among the current users are Miami Children's Hospital, Kaiser Permanente and New Hampshire's Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.) The kubi's $499 price tag, Rosenthal pointed out, is as much as 90 percent cheaper than some of the larger, more complex mobile platforms now in use.

Goldsmith and Rosenthal said Revolve has partnerships in place with companies like JACO, iPresence and Telepresence Gear, allowing the kubi to be integrated into other telemedicine platforms. The company demonstrated its product at HIMSS14 as well as the American Telemedicine Association's national conference last year, and company officials are predicted wider exposure this year.

"We can actually leverage most of the clients out there, like Vidyo," Rosenthal said. "There are a lot of different things you can do with this, from distance learning to telemedicine." One physical therapy chain, he said, even uses the kubi in its waiting rooms to help patients with registration.

Goldsmith and Rosenthal say they're working to synch the kubi with devices, and even envision a means by which a doctor could have hands-free control of the kubi, perhaps through Google Glass or some similar platform.

"Last year we were in the early stages, but now we're starting to get use cases," Rosenthal said. "It's an exciting time. A lot of it will come down to the reimbursement structure."