The Total Heart

The Ultimate Interactive Guide to Heart Health

Reviewed by Jim Gleason - Heart transplant recipient 10/94

Summary: If you have any interest in the workings of your heart (whether its healthy or ill), have access to a multi-media PC or Apple computer, and can afford $20, The Total Heart is a must for your software library! From my own personal view as a patient with several recent heart problems, this program was both medically fascinating, educationally powerful, extremely entertaining and artistic - one of the finest applications of personal computer technology to a critical health issue, made affordable to the average family. Buy it! Give it as a gift! Explore it! Enjoy it with the whole family! Live longer because of it! Keep it handy as an important reference work in the family or professional library.

What is it?

The Total Heart is a book enhanced to take full advantage of the technology offered by today's modern personal computers. Delivered on a CD ROM disk, the user interface is friendly enough to allow anyone who can read a book to both install and use it with little, if any, instruction. Put out by the famed Mayo Clinic, recognized world class in the field of cardiology, the extensive topics presented in this entertaining and educationally effective format are both current and accurate.

What do you need?

Basic hardware and software required to run The Total Heart are typical for most of today's multimedia games and family use application software, namely:

  • IBM compatible PC of 386SX or greater processor
  • 4mb of RAM (memory)
  • 4mb of free hard disk (while most of the software remains on the CD disk, on my system 885k in 6 files were left installed on the system's hard disk)
  • CD ROM drive with audio system (headphones or speakers)
  • VGA or VGA+ display (capability of displaying 256 colors is strongly recommended)
  • MS-DOS 3.1 or later
  • Microsoft WINDOWS 3.1 or later
  • Mouse or compatible pointing device

Note: similar system requirements are required for the MAC version, but I did not check that version out for this review.

What does it cover?

Imagine an encyclopedia of cardiology and you have a quick answer to this question. It's computer format includes 48 videos or animations and 145 color illustrations - all beautifully done! - complimented by 60 minutes of audio. The audio is mostly narration explaining the graphics, but there are ample actual heart sounds to make the illustrations very realistic in both sight and sound. Topics cover everything from the technical heart subjects you would expect the Mayo Clinic to be so thorough with, (of course I was most interested in the detailed treatment of heart transplants which, as it turned out, perfectly matched my own medical team's prescribed regimen before, during and after heart transplant) but also an extensive treatment of medications used in heart conditions, as well as a section of symptoms and the first aid response appropriate to each symptom. The illustrations seem to float in the air (3-D like) - with an absolutely fascinating opening sequence that will have you re-starting the program for family and friends time and time again. Skillful application of hypertext technology (i.e., the ability to click with a mouse on highlighted text and jump to definitions or related topics - don't worry, you wouldn't get lost in this drill-down process since a history of places visited remains available to the viewer throughout) makes navigation through this complex subject matter easy and natural to follow, perhaps even easier than reading the actual Mayo Clinic Heart Book from which it was adapted.

Personal Experience with The Total Heart

This software was a perfect Christmas gift from my daughter and her boy friend following my own successful heart transplant surgery just 2 months earlier. I had only recently upgraded our home PC to multimedia (i.e., CD ROM and sound with little experience in their use yet) but found that no real experience was necessary to install and use this program. Within minutes I was reviewing in full color and sound supported detail many of my own personal experiences with both common topics like Congestive Heart Failure, pneumonia and Cardiomyopathy as well as more esoteric (but also personal experiences) subjects like SVT (a racing heart condition sometimes found in post transplant patients) and CMV (a common virus found in most people but coming active in pregnant women, AIDS victims, and immune suppressed individuals like those of us post transplant patients). Rejection was another subject explored as I tested the currency of its information against the regimen prescribed by the HUP cardiac transplant team. The program passed my every test with flying colors - from ease of use to the deepest technology I thought I understood. One of The Total Heart's strongest points is the patient's ability to self-pace this tour through the heart, stopping for clearer definitions and side trips of interest all along the way. I found myself passing several hours just exploring experiences I had gone through personally, but also moving out into yet other subjects that competed for attention. Time and time again I went back to the program, especially after new challenges of rejection, SVT and CMV became part of my post operative recovery process. While fortunate to have a professional support team that answered any and all questions and made themselves available 24 hours a day - 7 days a week - The Total Heart offered yet another dimension of understanding through its animated graphics and realistic sound effects. Its focus is not limited to the diseased heart, providing strong support to anyone interested in healthy living and heart disease prevention.

Who can best use The Total Heart?

Obviously any patient facing heart difficulty will be fascinated with The Total Heart. This is a unique piece of software that may in fact be life saving to the user. The family and supporters of heart patients will find answers to just about level of questions in The Total Heart. Professionals like doctors and nurses will find dual use of this software. Not only will it serve to update their own training but they in turn can use The Total Heart to support the education and explanations they give to their patients and families of patients. This tool belongs on every cardiologist's desk when consultations are given, or on laptops available for hospitalized heart patients either for self use or again to support professionals in helping such patients understand their diagnosis and treatment. Finally, anyone interested in improving their own health program will find support in the prevention topics covered.

Where can I buy The Total Heart?

This program is published by IVI Publishing, 1380 Corporate Center Curve, Suite 305, Eagan, MN 55121, and is generally available at local retail outlets like Egghead Software, COMPUSA, and similar popular computer stores. Street price for both the PC and MAC versions is $20.

Note: a companion product, The Mayo clinic Family Health CD, is available from the same outlets.

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