‘Betty' the robot helps Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center patients

ORLANDO, Fla. - The next time you go to the hospital, you might end up talking to a pint-sized robot about some your symptoms.   

Betty is only 2 feet tall, but has an excellent memory. In fact, she remembers every patient she’s ever met in an exam room. Betty has been roaming the halls at the Orlando Health Cancer Center for the last month, and so far, she has seen a couple dozen patients.

“Betty doesn't judge and that's the beauty of Betty,” said Dr. Tomas Dvorak.      

Betty is still in her testing phase, but initial findings have shown that patients are open to interacting with a robot when it comes to questions about their health. So by the time the doctor or other health care professional walks in the room, Betty has taken care of some of the basic questions. And in some cases, patients tend to be more truthful with her than a human. 

"There are a lot of patients that are ashamed about the information that we are asking them to share,” Dvorak said.

But Betty isn’t about to take over jobs. She’s more like an extra pair of hands or, in this case, "a head," that can help staff members.

“She is more an extra team member that allows us to do things that (we) have a tough time getting done,” said Dvorak. The University of Central Florida has been helping Orlando Health develop the technology. Eventually, the robots will resemble those from the big screen.

“Maybe a little R2D2, a little Baymax if you’ve seen 'Big Hero 6.' Those are a few of the inspirations,” said Dr. David Metcalf, a senior researcher at UCF.  Orlando Health said it is looking at adding more “Betty” robots next year to be tested and used in other parts of the hospital.