The University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin) School of Nursing has begun using a “robot nurse” to give students experience in the growing field of telemedicine, over-the-phone or online interactions with health care providers.

The Robo-Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (RoboAPRN) program came out of a $9,764 grant from the UT-Austin Faculty Innovation Center. RoboAPRN allows students to experience interacting with patients without being in the same room as them through videoconferencing.

Valerie Danesh, assistant nursing professor and co-principal investigator for RoboAPRN, tells, “RoboAPRN is a form of remote presence, a type of telemedicine that allows health care providers to evaluate patients regardless of distance separating them. The robot is about the same height as the average person so as to give the appearance and feel of speaking to a health care provider as if they were in the same room.”

Remote presence is quickly growing in importance in rural areas because of low access to health care. Telemedicine allows health care providers to more directly assess patients without having to travel to rural areas and areas that lack certain health care specialists. UT-Austin added telemedicine skills to their Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program after a need to reach patients in rural areas became a necessity.

A press release from the school states: “These patients are underserved in so many ways. They’re the last patients that get served, often times, and they’re the ones with a lot of the highest level of needs.” Because telemedicine has become such a large part of the healthcare field, it is increasingly important for UT-Austin to give its students as much experience in this area as they can to prepare them for what they will see after they finish school.

To learn more about UT-Austin’s RoboAPRN program to teach telemedicine skills to nursing students, visit here.

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