I saw a blog post on here a couple weeks ago about Microsoft and their Kinect gaming console. The main idea of the article was that whether or not gaming consoles are sustainable as gaming on smart phones continues to increase rapidly. I thought to myself that the Kinect has so much more potential than the “typical” gaming console where all you can do is play video games on a television screen while sitting on your couch. So I thought I’d do a little bit of research and see what was out there, and I came across this article:
Healthcare has progressed pretty rapidly since our grandparents and even our parents were kids. From the polio vaccine to face transplants, more can be done than ever thought possible before. So how about bringing a video game console into the operating room or into a group therapy session? Sound far-fetched? Maybe it does, but it’s happening in Canada. At Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Canada, surgeons and other medical staff use the Xbox Kinect to browse patients’ files, test results, pictures, etc without ever having to touch a single foreign object.
When surgeons, doctors and nurses have to stop the medical procedure and touch a foreign object, the risk of contamination and infection increases. By using the Xbox Kinect game console, the doctor can use his or her hand to flip through the pages of the patient’s electronic medical file. This also saves valuable time for both the patient and the doctor. This way the doctor does not have re-scrub his or her hands and arms before he or she can get back to the patient’s procedure. That may be precious time that the patient does not have and cannot afford to lose. It may free up the doctor’s time so that he or she can perform more procedures in a day and help save more lives.
Furthermore, Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s Chief Research and Strategy Officer, announced that the Xbox Kinect can be used to help patients remotely with therapy sessions, both physical therapy and group therapy-type settings. In fact, the Kinect’s sensors are so refined that the doctors can actually see facial expressions demonstrated by the patients! An additional bonus is that the remote nature of the group therapy sessions allows people the anonymity to open up and be honest without feeling embarrassed or self-conscious.
So does this mean that we will never have to take another day off work to go the doctor’s office? I doubt it, at least for now anyway. One thing to keep in mind is that the Kinect is an add-on to the Xbox 360, which will cost you $200 to $4001. The Kinect is an additional $150. And then there are add-ons such as the wireless adaptor, hard drive and annual memberships. This may not seem like a very large investment for a doctor’s office or a hospital, but when you consider that each household would have to purchase these items, the cost savings of taking the day off of work and the transportation costs saved may not justify the investment of the materials purchase.
Another thing to consider is that technology is always improving. So while the Xbox Kinect may be today’s “new developments in IT”, it could very well be surpassed by another company’s newer, better invention or even Microsoft’s (the maker of Xbox) latest and greatest model.
In summary, on an individual-basis for appointments such as therapy, the Xbox Kinect may not be a viable alternative to the “old fashioned” doctor’s office visit. That said, if it helps decrease the risk of infection and contamination in a surgical setting, the Xbox Kinect is a low-cost investment for operating rooms everywhere. It could also save doctors and patients valuable time, which is priceless in comparison.
So to respond to my original thought about the Kinect having a lot more potential than other gaming consoles, I believe the answer is yes, the Kinect is more than just for video games. Some gaming consoles may become obsolete as smart phone gaming continues to increase in popularity, but I don’t think that the Kinect is one of them. What do you think?
One thought on “The Xbox Kinect in Healthcare”
As a bit of a germaphobe, I’m happy to read about anything that inhibits the spread of disease! This topic seems especially timely in light of Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto, which shed a lot of light on just how often the crucial step of scrubbing in is overlooked by busy doctors. On a higher level, I think this use case for the Kinect is representative of the type of thought that keeps companies on top. Finding a new market for an existing product is less risky and requires less of an investment than introducing a new product. As you alluded to in your post, Kinect’s may not become a mainstay in every doctor’s office, but if it encourages businesses in other sectors to think of the Xbox as more than a gaming system it feels like a win for Microsoft.