Microsoft Kinect research aimed at patient safety improvement

Falls are a major safety issue in hospitals, and the ability to predict and detect them immediately could improve patient care. So research being conducted on two motion-sensing technologies might have applications to inpatient care, as well as to assisted living and long-term-care facilities.

Researchers at the University of Missouri College of Engineering are investigating whether the Microsoft Kinect gaming system can be used to monitor changes in behavior and routines among patients at an assisted-living facility in Columbia, Mo. These changes can predict the likelihood of a patient falling.

Microsoft Kinect previously has been used by surgeons at Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital to manipulate medical images during procedures without touching a computer. The gaming device has also been applied in group mental-health sessions to allow counselors to view participants' facial expressions without being able to identify the patients. Recently, Microsoft released a software development kit (SDK) to help developers invent new ways to use Kinect.

Other University of Missouri researchers are looking into the use of Doppler radar--yes, the same technology used to track weather--to recognize changes in walking and bending that may signal the onset of falls. The radar method works by identifying different "signatures" as body parts move.

The motion-sensing systems provide automated data that alerts providers when patients are in trouble. Such a system might send a warning to a unit nurse that a particular patient has fallen in a nearby room.

To learn more:
- read the Healthcare IT News story
- see the ZDNet article about the release of the Kinect SDK

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