Windows Media Center for eHealth

Happy Holidays from all of us in Microsoft's Healthcare and Life Sciences team.

Isn't the holiday season great! I feel so blessed to be spending quality time with my family and friends. A couple of nights ago we were with friends and after dinner the conversation turned to an item on regular television that we had enjoyed. Not everyone had seen the program so our daughter went right to the digital recordings on our Windows Media Center, found the exact place in the program and replayed it so we could discuss it meaningfully. Last night we watched the new England Patriots beat the NY Jets on ABC's Monday Night Football. On our Windows Media Center we could pause and replay any highlights or even some of the intriguing historic footage that ABC showed to spice up the final episode (sad to see this era coming to an end). We've watched several movies this holiday season thought Media Center hooked to our surround sound receiver. We buy music over the internet and play it anywhere in the house from our Windows Media Center and Media Center Extenders. All our photographs are available through the Media Center environment so we are able to share them with our family and friends as we reminisce about vacations gone by. There is a music radio station in my area that I love but it has very poor FM reception. Now I can receive it, crystal clear, via the internet stream of their live broadcast. On my travels around the US, I have found several radio stations that I really like and I can now enjoy them in the comfort of our living room via Media Center. People often mention interesting and relevant reports that they hear on programs like NPR. With my Windows Media Center I can go back to NPR's ten foot interface and replay the program from the archive while doing my regular chores around the house. 

I am trying to emphasize a point. This holiday season it really strikes me that technology in the home has changed dramatically; it has advanced rapidly and greatly improved our quality of life. We should be using it to advance our healthcare just as much as we are using it to advance our entertainment and education. In recent years, I have seen several articles published in reputable healthcare journals that show that simple home monitoring of people with chronic illnesses can dramatically improve the quality of life and reduce the costs of care by 25%-40%. One article I recall gave patients with congestive health failure a few simple reminders or asked simple questions via telephone interface. The system asked discharged patients whether their weight was increasing (an indication of water retention and progressive failure) or they felt dizzy. Based on the patients' answers, they did some simple triaging and were able to keep more patients out of hospital and treat them earlier and in the outpatient setting. I can imagine that many of these patients watch television or listen to the radio. I think that Windows Media Center is an ideal platform for asking simple questions and letting them respond with point and click answers using their remote control. We could also give them advice and medical education while they are watching their favorite programs and if necessary, we could alert designated family members or caregivers about concerns. The cost of this could be built in to the many emerging disease management programs that the Health Plans are advocating.

One additional thought occurred to me while talking to a major HIS vendor and large hospital organization last week. What if Windows Media Center becomes the basis for bedside communication within the hospital? While the patient is in hospital, they could learn to use the Windows Media Center and the healthcare interface with the assistance of the nursing staff. The in-hospital system would allow them to watch TV and could then prompt them with questions they need to answer. They could communicate via email or Instant Messaging. They could even review their own personal health record and receive some medical education. All this would be in preparation for the time when they are discharged and can continue to communicate and manage their healthcare in this way from home. Is this not true eHealth?

And for the technical readers of Healthcare Blog, Windows Media Center is programmable using an SDK and Visual Studio.NET. The platform allows you to add in programs that can then be designed with Microsoft's ten foot interface for ease of use from any TV screen. Many vendors have created add-ins for Windows Media Center including music, movies, news, lifestyle and games. And all these vendors have equivalent desktop and laptop interfaces that offer the same functionality.

What do you think?  

Clifford Goldsmith, M.D., US Director, Provider Industry, Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences