Microsoft’s new Kinect technology is all the rage among video gamers these days, but the technology behind the device is a smash hit amongst hackers and scientists most of all. With its multiple color and depth-sensing lenses, skeletal tracking system, and voice microphone array, these tinkering innovators see the Kinect technology as an incredible tool whose true purpose has yet to be discovered. Their experiments with the device got us thinking: Could the Kinect technology eventually make its way into healthcare IT?

A Watching Machine

Microsft’s Kinect is a gesture based controller, meaning you don’t actually hold anything in your hand. The device uses an array of cameras and sensors to read and interpret your body movements. This differs from, say, an iPad, which requires you to make contact with the device. Kinect is meant to stay invisible and unnoticed while functioning. It sits there and watches, listens, feels for your input gestures.


The unsung promise of gesture based controllers is their ability to process and interpret things happening in the physical world, a domain once reserved for living organisms like ourselves. These devices ‘see’ into our world, watch for specific types of movement, and process the corresponding data using specialized software. So, what does this mean for healthcare?

Kinect the Docs

Imagine the physicians practice of the future, with sensors based on the Kinect technology in every room connected to a futuristic version of a medical practice management system. Through the sensors, the system will know and process every action taken within the practice, silently performing many of the most tedious medical practice management duties.

Think about it:

  • Patients will be checked in when the system detects their presence
  • Patients’ health records will physically follow the patient throughout the practice
  • The physician’s actions will guide the system’s workflow, not vice versa
  • The system will recognize and log every procedure (What data entry?)
  • The resulting data could be approved by the physician at end-of-visit
  • All encounters would be recorded and could be replayed for audits

Now just to be clear, we’re not making any promises here. These are lofty, distant dreams, but the reality is that we’re laying the groundwork for these systems right now. Check out some of the best Kinect hacks for more mind-blowing footage of the future that’s already here. And by all means, if you come up with some more cool ideas for the medical practice of the future, leave us a comment!