Key scientific focus
This UK EPSRC funded project will investigate how human participants innovate haptic exploration behaviours to detect abnormalities in a soft tissue given palpation force constraints. We focus on the application of training medical students to perform physical examinations on patients under constraints imposed by pain expressions conditioned by different gender and culture backgrounds.
Robo Patient project
Team of investigators
- Dr. Thrishantha Nanayakkara (principal investigator), Dyson School of Design Engineering, Imperial College London
- Dr. Nejra Van Zalk (Co-investigator), Dyson School of Design Engineering, Imperial College London
- Dr. Mazdak Ghajari (Co-investigator), Dyson School of Design Engineering, Imperial College London
- Dr. Fumiya Iida (Co-investigator), Department of Engineering, Cambridge University
- Professor Simon Lusignan (Co-investigator), Primary Care Health and Sciences, Oxford University
Often primary examination of a patient by a General Practitioner (GP) involves physical examination to estimate the condition of internal organs in the abdomen. Facial expressions during palpation are often used as feedback to test a range of medical hypotheses for diagnosis. This leaves room for possible misinterpretations when the GP finds it difficult to establish a stable understanding about the patient’s background. This is a critical medical interaction challenge in UK where there is diverse gender and culture interactions in both GPs and patients.
Given the task of estimating the most likely value of a variable like the position of a hard formation in a soft tissue; humans (including examining doctors) use various internal and external control action such as variation of finger stiffness, shape and orientation of fingers, variation of indentation, and position and velocity control of fingers. We call this behavioural lensing of haptic information. A deeper understanding of how behavioural lensing happens under constraints is particularly important to improve the quality of training of physicians to develop robust physical examination methods on patients. In the case of examining a patient, behavioural constraints are imposed by pain expressions that can render diverse interpretations depending on the culture and gender context of the interaction between the physician and the patient.
Robustness of medical examination can be improved by introducing new technology assisted tools during medical education. Clinical sessions in medical training involve demonstrations from an experienced GP trainer on real patients. However, it is difficult to provide a consistent range of examples across different student groups because the lesson depends on the kind of patients available in the ward. On the other hand, patients resent repeated examination by students.
Media and workshops
- The Engineering article titled “RoboPatient combines AR and robotics to train medics“
- Workshop on Human-Robot Medical Interaction at the 2020 IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction.
- RoPat20 workshop at IROS 2020.