Is Google Glass Use in Healthcare Overhyped?

April 10, 2014
Satish Misra, MD

When it comes to Google Glass, there are a wide range of opinions when it comes to the device's application in healthcare, although the community is split over whether the device is useful or destined to be forgotten.

This article published with permission from iMedicalApps.com.

When it comes to Google Glass, there are a wide range of opinions when it comes to the device’s application in healthcare.

For some, Glass is destined to be worn by every single physician, nurse, and allied health professional that comes within 50 feet of a patient. For others, Glass is destined for the dustbin of medical history, another example of a solution in search of a problem.

Not only have we had the opportunity to try out Glass around the hospital, we’ve also been keeping track of how others are testing it out in clinical settings. In the past year or so, we’ve seen a few themes emerge when it comes to areas that Glass may actually find clinical utility.

Here are the 3 areas where clinicians may someday find themselves wearing Glass.

Procedures and surgery

Among the first uses of Glass in healthcare was in the operating room, when a surgeon broadcast the placement of a PEG tube using Google Hangout.

Pristine, a California-based start-up, is piloting a HIPAA-compliant platform for streaming audio and video from Glass. It’s not hard to imagine how a surgeon or other proceduralist could use this to get intra-operative second opinions or advice. It could also help with training by allowing a senior surgeon to more closely supervise a trainee, particularly when working in a small operating field.

Aside from just streaming, Accenture and Philips recently demonstrated a prototype system that streams live vital signs data to a heads-up display on Google Glass. This concept could be extended to display many other types of data, allowing the operator to call up, say, a CT scan or a prior operative report when needed.

When we tried out Glass during procedures, we were pleasantly surprised by a number of features. First, the voice recognition worked great even when you are fully scrubbed. That’s probably thanks to the bone conduction transducer employed by the device. Second, it was pretty unobtrusive in terms of our ability to view the procedure field.

Care in the field

Another application that has been explored is use in the field and with medical triage. Here again, the streaming functionality could be useful in a number of settings by allowing, for example, an ER physician to see the patient en route to the ER and assist the EMS provider caring for the patient.

Also, Glass could be enormously helpful given programs like the Blue Button initiative that give patient greater access to their medical information. For those not familiar, the Blue Button initiative is a federal program that allows patients to access their medical information. Humetrix has developed a system in which patients are given a QR code that, when scanned, allows access to a synopsis of their medical records.

Imagine a scenario where a Glass-wearing EMT arrives on scene, looks at a QR code, and is instantly given a synopsis of the patient’s medical history. Such a tool could also be used in situations where quick triage is important, such as in disaster settings or even crowded ERs.

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