Telemedicine has become one of the hot trends in healthcare, with more and more patients and doctors using smartphones and tablets to exchange medical information. The convenience of not having to travel to the doctor’s office or clinic is a big part of the appeal—as is the relief of not wasting valuable time thumbing through outdated waiting-room magazines when an appointment runs late. And for patients living in isolated or underserved areas, telemedicine offers care that might otherwise be unattainable. Despite these advantages, telemedicine can be coldly impersonal, lacking the comfort of interacting with another human being.
Silicon Valley-based Sense.ly is working to bring a human face to telemedicine. The company’s Kinect-powered “nurse avatar” provides personalized patient monitoring and follow-up care—not to mention a friendly, smiling face that converses with patients in an incredibly lifelike manner. The nurse avatar, affectionately nicknamed Molly, has access to a patient’s records and asks appropriate questions related directly to the patient’s past history or present complaints. She has a pleasant, caring demeanor that puts patients at ease. Interacting with her seems surprisingly natural, which, of course, is the goal.
With the help of Kinect for Windows technology, Sense.ly’s nurse avatar, called Molly, can respond
to patients’ speech and body movements.
By using Kinect for Windows technology, Sense.ly enables Molly to recognize and respond to her patient’s visual and spoken inputs. The patient stands or sits in from of a Kinect sensor, which captures his or her image and sends it to Molly. Does the patient have knee pain? She can show Molly exactly where it hurts. Is the patient undergoing treatment for bursitis that limits his range of motion? He can raise his affected arm and show Molly whether his therapy is achieving results. In fact, the Kinect sensor’s skeletal tracking capabilities allow Sense.ly to measure the patient’s range of motion and to calculate how it has changed from his last session. What’s more, with Kinect providing a clear view of the patient, Molly can help guide him or her through therapeutic exercises.
A growing number doctors and hospitals are recognizing the value of applications such as Sense.ly. In fact, the San Mateo Medical Center is one of several major hospitals that have recently added Molly to their staff, so to speak. The value of such solutions is particularly striking in handling patients who suffer from long-term conditions that require frequent monitoring, such high blood pressure or diabetes.
Solutions like Sense.ly also provide a clear cost benefit for providers and insurers, as treating a patient remotely is less costly and generally more efficient than onsite care. In a recent pilot program, the use of Sense.ly reduced patient calls by 28 percent and freed up nearly a fifth of their day for the clinicians involved in the program.
Most importantly, Sense.ly’s Kinect-powered nurse avatar offers the promise of better health outcomes, the result of more frequent medical monitoring and of patients’ increased involvement in their own care. Something to think about the next time you’re stuck in the doctor’s waiting room.
The Kinect for Windows Team