Google Glass Could Become a Fixture in the Operating Room
By Timothy Hay
Cardiothoracic surgeon Pierre Theodore recently performed surgery wearing Google Glass, the wearable computer by Google Inc., and found he could alternate between looking down at his patient and glancing at that patient’s medical imagery on the lens, the same way a driver can alternate between looking at the road and glancing in the rearview mirror.
- University of California San Francisco
- Dr. Pierre Theodore
“I had thought it was going to be a gimmick, but after that I became a zealot,” said Dr. Theodore, who works atUniversity of California, San Francisco Medical Center.
But could a time come when his colleagues–including the vast number who are older and less hip than Dr. Theodore is–all agree that Google Glass can change the game in the operating room?
It was one of several questions batted around on Friday at a discussion about the potential role for Google’s futuristic eyewear at the Health Innovation Summit, a conference held by Bay Area medical-technology incubator Rock Health.
Outside of the OR, the device’s camera, microphones, recording capability, Wi-Fi chip and other features mean Glass has plenty of other uses along the chain of health-care delivery, other panelists said.
While doctors have the reputation of being a pen-and-paper crowd, reluctant to adopt new gadgets, the reason is not because they are stubborn and set in their ways, Dr. Theodore said.
“We’re already overwhelmed by technology,” he said, displaying an image of an operating room filled with monitors, wires, screens and other hardware.
Google, as well as the increasing number of developers building applications for Glass, will have to convince doctors that the wearable gadget can replace other machines and streamline processes that sometimes take more than one machine to handle, the panelists said.
Glass has the same potential to streamline operations outside of the OR, said Ian Shakil, chief executive of Google Glass application company Augmedix Inc., and a veteran of robotic surgery company Intuitive Surgical Inc.
“We’re going to use Glass to reclaim the 25% [of the workday] that doctors spend on the computer, all of the coding, the reimbursement, all that stuff. That’s not why they went to medical school,” he said.
Augmedix, an early-stage company that has not disclosed many details about the apps it is building, has an apparent focus on enabling doctors to communicate with each other, with patients and with patients’ families. Mr. Shakil also discussed how Glass, which is voice-activated, can ease some of the work of documentation in the health-care system, including in the area of electronic health records.
- Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
- An attendee tries Google Glass during the Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco in May.
While there have been rumblings in the venture community about the potential for the wearable computer—including a partnership between Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Andreessen Horowitzand Google Ventures to fund Glass developers, and a similar partnership between Qualcomm Life and Palomar Health—VCs have not yet jumped in with both feet.
Missy Krasner, an executive in residence at venture firm Morgenthaler, who moderated the discussion, said VCs will ask the usual questions about how Glass apps will be monetized, and how large the market is for such products.
Enormous markets can open up, the panelists said, if Glass developers can show that the eyewear is not merely another gadget that has the potential to get in between a doctor and a patient, and make communication less intimate.
Since it could eliminate the need to tap on a computer or rummage through paper files, the eyewear has the potential to bring doctor and patient closer together, they said.
Write to Timothy Hay at email@example.com