'Robot doctors' being trialled in Waikato, Thames

An apple a day usually helps keep the doctor away - but in Waikato and Thames, iPads are bringing doctors right to patients' bedsides.

Medical consultants Eric McClain and Paul Huggan are trialling new clinical robots which allow them to interact with patients in other hospitals.

"The first time I saw the robot was on an episode of Modern Family," says Dr Huggan. "That's where the idea of using it in healthcare got planted in my mind."

Dr McClain can be in Thames but roam the wards of Waikato, and vice versa - Dr Huggan can log on to a hospital computer in Waikato, and make bedside visits in Thames.

"Once you remove the awkwardness and the freezing and the difficulty controlling the volume of the microphone, I think that it just becomes a very natural way of interacting with people," he says.

The robot has a camera, speaker and microphone, adjustable height, and uses segway technology to travel the hallways.

Dr McClain says the biggest limitation of the robots is the fact he can't shake a patient's hand - as well as the wi-fi outages.

He says making his way through hospital wards comes with practise.

"It's just another added nuance to delivering medicine. I think most people have had a positive reaction to this."

Clinical robots won't be taking over the wards, but they could complement routine care in the future.