Last Friday I joined my colleagues from Microsoft Research for a day-long seminar on physiological monitoring, health and wellness. The seminar was organized by my colleague Nuria Oliver, who is doing some interesting work with the Smartphone as medical monitor (HealthGear). I touched on this topic in a prior Blog entry. Nuria has developed an application to screen people at home for sleep apnea. It uses a battery operated pulse oximeter connected to a Smartphone via Bluetooth to record overnight sleep apnea episodes. She has developed another application that feeds cardiac and respiratory rate into a Smartphone and serves as a kind of personal exercise trainer.
Another device that caught my attention during our MSR seminar was something called a Sensecam. Previously, I’ve written about the need for better data input options to help populate the electronic medical record. This is a huge issue for clinicians because of the vast amount of data that must be entered into our patients’ files. Today, most of that information is captured either by voice dictation and then transcribed to a paper record, or simply written via longhand to a paper record. A frequently cited drawback to electronic records is the productivity lost as physicians try to to type or otherwise enter data into a computer. But what if we could make better use of some of the other ways we assimilate and record data from the world around us besides the written word. If I’m examining a rash, a deformity or a wound, why would I want to use written words to describe it in the medical record vs. just taking a digital photo of it and storing it in the patient’s file? Why would I draw a diagram of a patient’s hand laceration showing size, location, etc. when I could just insert a photo of it before and after treatment? In fact, why would I use hundreds of words to describe my treatment, when a condensed video of what I did might provide more detailed information?
The Sensecam is a tiny self-contained device that can be used to record one’s interactions with the physical world throughout the day. The digitized information can be posted to a web site or placed in a folder of life events. You can read more about how Sensecams are being used at Microsoft Research here:
Maybe there’s an opportunity to leverage these kinds of technologies in healthcare. Maybe we need to think differently about what constitutes a “medical record”. How might we use digital audio, video, graphics and photography to record interactions with our patients and document our findings? Think about how patients might use these devices to communicate health status to providers. It’s a brave new world and just perhaps, a new direction for the medical record.
What do you think? Let us know.
Bill Crounse, MD Healthcare Industry Director Microsoft Healthcare & Life Sciences