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Meet Dr Hudsson: The robot medical professional

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Doctor Hudsson: The future of medical care?
Doctor Hudsson: The future of medical care?   -   Copyright  AP Photo

Meet Doctor Hudsson. He has an excellent bedside manner and is never tired or stressed.

"I am taking care of you, while you can take care of your loved ones," he says as visitors arrive at the Hadassah clinic in Moscow.

As well as providing information about new services and the clinic's working hours, the robot can take blood sugar levels and blood pressure.

Rodion Sigal, deputy head doctor for medical work of Hadassa Moscow clinic, says, "This is an assistant, an assistant to the medical nurse, to the administrator, to the doctor. This is not a toy as it may seem at first glance."

As an assistant to the administrator, the robot helps patients to book appointments.Part of the robot’s responsibility includes collecting basic data before the patient sees the doctor. All measurements are reliable according to Sigal, although more work is underway to improve the accuracy of blood sugar level tests.

"Unfortunately, at this stage, a non-invasive glucometre does not have the same sensitivity as an invasive one,” Sigal explains, “but development is underway, things progress, and I think that in the future this will all be possible."

The diagnostic robot comes from a company called Promobot in Perm. Development began at the end of 2018 in association with the local medical academy and the first prototype appeared eight months later, at the end of 2019 - just in time for the pandemic, which has spiked further interest in the concept of the robot.

"We started by asking medical staff what are the current problems, what risk factors do we have in Russia in terms of health, says Oleg Averkov, a project manager at Promobot. "It turned out that in Russia these are cardiovascular diseases.”

The research identified the health areas which most frequently need checking, like temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar level, lung volume and blood oxygen levels. The robot uses the usual medical devices to check these areas.

How has the pandemic accelerated the demand for the robots?

"The pandemic in this case is about, on the one hand, our users, who started to care about their health more. On the other hand, as it is a robot, it excludes human-to-human contact which is one of the advantages of using it (now), you can easily approach the robot and do all the checks," says Averkov.

Around a dozen of the diagnostic robots have been sold so far. As well as medical companies, some businesses simply buy them to help promote a healthy lifestyle amongst staff and visitors.

One such organisation is the Moscow multifunctional documents issuing centre. Visitors here can use the robot to do basic health tests when they arrive to pick up documents.

"It's very convenient. At least I got some kind of energy boost, and confidence that I am healthy," says visitor Vladislav Vorobyov.

The initiative is part of the Healthy Moscow programme. The robots appeared in centres in August 2020 and there are now four in use around Moscow.

"Even our staff use our robot, they also do everyday checks to monitor their health," says Grigory Kurov, head of the South-West district flagship multifunctional centre.

The robots make health and lifestyle recommendations by asking visitors questions then analysing the answers. Developers hope to soon be able to incorporate other options such as ECG tests and checking cholesterol levels.

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Journalist name • Sarah Palmer