A Pediatric Hospital Bedside Patient Entertainment & Education System: Microsoft Media Center + Xbox

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Arkansas Children’s Hospital

Every so often I come across organizations and people that truly blow me away. Pediatric hospitals have always been known for innovative ideas in the care of their young patients. So, it comes as no surprise that a pediatric hospital would rise to the occasion to better meet the entertainment and education needs of their "customers". But you just have to love it when a truly dedicated clinical and IT staff put their heads together and come up with a solution that is truly best in class.

That is exactly what has happened at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. ACH is based in Little Rock. It is the only full-service children's hospital in the state. The staff at ACH decided it was time to replace the hospital's aging in-room television system with something a little more contemporary. At first, they looked at systems that might typically be found in good hotels. However, they soon discovered that these systems were too expensive, too inflexible, and too limiting for what they really wanted to accomplish. They wanted a system that would provide their young patients with a full spectrum of on-demand movies, television, Internet, video gaming, and patient education. They also wanted a highly flexible platform on which they could provide other services now and well into the future. Finally, they wanted complete control over the system and its attributes that could be fine-tuned to meet the age-appropriate needs of patients, their friends and family. When they didn't find what they needed on the open market at a price they could afford, they decided to build it themselves.

The solution they came up with uses Microsoft Media Center, Xbox 360, and SQL Server. It extends the hospital's IT infrastructure out to the patient's bedside. Patients access the system through a custom designed interface on a 15-inch flat screen monitor next to the bed. This set-up lends itself to easy cleaning between patients. The monitor also becomes a kind of "command-central" for doctors and nurses who want to access a patient's electronic record or review x-rays and other data with the patient in his or her room. Movies, games, educational videos, Internet access, e-mail, messaging, etc. are viewed on a 32-inch LCD screen mounted on the wall across from the bed.

Bedside Entertainment and Education

Home screen to the bedside entertainment and education system at Arkansas Children's Hospital based on Microsoft Media Center

Yesterday, I recorded one of my House Calls audio-casts with the staff at ACH. That program will be posted on my House Call's site on Microsoft.com within the next few days. In the meantime, I just couldn't wait to tell you about this. Although the solution has just finished a limited pilot, the decision has already been made to roll it out hospital-wide. One of the highlights of my audio-cast was interviewing a 16 year-old young man who is a frequent patient at ACH. To hear his excitement about using the new bedside entertainment and education system at ACH was reward in itself. He said the system is totally awesome in helping him stay in touch with school, friends and family during extended hospital stays. His doctor has used the bedside monitor to review test results with him. And the TV, movies and Xbox games are way cool!

Custom user interface that controls entertainment and education options as displayed on a 15-inch flatscreen monitor at the patient's bedside

Congratulations to ACH Chief Technology Officer, David Higginson, and his staff. This is just one of more than 400 clinical and business solutions this team has built at Arkansas Children's Hospital in the last five years alone. I met David a while back when he visited us here at Microsoft in Redmond. It was evident then that he and his team were up to some amazing work. My thanks also are extended to Penny Ward, RN, for sharing her enthusiasm about the bedside solution at ACH. And, my very special thanks go to Christopher Holstead, the 16 year-old patient at ACH, for sharing his thoughts about the new bedside entertainment and education system.

Be watching here on HealthBlog for more information when my House Calls’ audio-cast with Arkansas Children’s Hospital goes live on the Net.

Bill Crounse, MD   Worldwide Health Director   Microsoft

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