Telepresence is an important trend for healthcare in 2020. As an administrator and/or physician, you may already use it for remote applications, such as consultations with patients and specialists. But adding robotics as a facet of your telepresence strategy can be a lot easier to implement than it may seem — and a lot less expensive, too.

Telepresence robots are essentially computers on wheels:their "faces" are often screens to display data or to serve as a video conduit for a physician to remotely talk with a patient or colleague. According to market research, the global medical robotic systems market is expected to surge to $10.7 billion by 2026.

In a hospital setting, telepresence robots move freely and independently. They can help patients at their bedsides, aid in rehab, transport supplies to nurses or ORs, disinfect rooms, and assist in lab automation, among other uses.

Here are some of the technology's most exciting applications that can be used at your facility today:

Monitoring hospital patients' conditions.

According to Robohub, a telepresence robot can be customized to monitor changes in a patient's medical bedside data and behavior, then alert nurses immediately to any factors that could indicate key changes in his or her condition.

Telepresence robot video screens can also serve an advanced Skype-like service: say a doctor is away, but wants to take a detailed, real-time look at a patient to see if they're physically stronger. He or she can appear on the robot's screen and ask that patient to walk so that progress can be evaluated the same way it would be with in-person rounds.

Fostering collaboration with colleagues.

A pioneering overview study from the University of Massachusetts by lead author Katherine Tsui found that robots attending informal "standup meetings" in the physical place of a participant work well — perfect for quick discussions where one member of a team must be in another location.

When the technology is used in a more casual, free-form way, it allows for a sense of inclusion so that everyone can fully participate and stay in the daily loop with ease.

Facilitating fast, accurate treatment.

The HD video and audio applications of telepresence robots are top-notch. This makes it easy for a doctor to offer a remote confirming diagnosis in a fast-moving, crucial scenario, such as determining whether a patient has had a stroke.

Allowing for cost-effectiveness.

Robotics manufacturers offer many telepresence robot models that are extremely affordable. For example, a basic model controlled by an app that has night vision, livestream and microphone capabilities can run under $200, with more advanced models available in the $700-$2,000 price range. Lifewire recently did a terrific, detailed overview of some of the best telepresence robot models on the market. As you can see, there is a product available for every application and price point.

This means that even if your budget is modest, a telepresence robot is not out of reach. You should definitely consider all the exciting possibilities this technology can bring — and how it can significantly improve patient outcomes!