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Kinect use in health care might yield cost savings

Microsoft Corp.’s Kinect gaming system allows people to jump, throw darts, slay droids with lightsabers and participate in real-time Zumba dance classes, but a new report points out the device might also be a cost-saving boon to the practice of telemedicine.

Telemedicine systems can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but by using the Kinect and the Internet, the health care industry could save $30 billion. The report published in the International Journal of Electronic Finance acknowledges that Kinect is “Not anticipated to be a panacea to the telemedicine environment but it is a powerful tool that can be affordable in virtually any community that has existing technology and communication infrastructure.”

More health care facilities will be able to make use of telemedicine systems with Kinect as an available alternative, though it already has been used for more than telemedicine in health care environments. Doctors at a hospital in Toronto have used the device to interact with images while they performed surgery, sparing them from having to leave and reenter the sterile operating room.

Kinect was also used to encourage senior citizens to be more active. The Exergamers Wellness Club in Los Angeles promotes physical activity for seniors through virtual bowling competitions, dancing routines and other games. The use of Kinect also allows for social interaction for the wellness club members. The seniors keep track of their Kinect results in Microsoft’s HealthVault. HealthVault’s Connection Center lets users store and access medical images in their personal health record (PHR). Patients can allow providers to store images in their PHRs, saving them from having to obtain a printed version of the images.

Gaming has been used in other ways to engage and educate patients. UCLA created a game to help diagnose malaria. The game, played on cell phones, gives a brief description on how to recognize malaria-infected red blood cells. Players are instructed to destroy the infected cells and gather the healthy blood cells. The game simulates the process of a pathologist looking for malaria cells under a microscope. A small group of players were found to be very accurate in recognizing the disease; they were within 1.25% accuracy compared to a professional.

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