March 18, 2014

Several hospitals and health systems around the country have begun exploring how to use the capabilities of Google Glass to improve patient care and streamline hospital operations.

The following five organizations are currently using or piloting Google Glass:

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Boston)
For the past several months, emergency department physicians at BIDMC have been able to access the hospital’s Web-based ED Dashboard through Google Glass. The technology can project information from the dashboard into physicians’ field of view, allowing them to see a patient’s data during a consultation or examination. To ensure the security of the data, everything is kept behind BIDMC’s firewall.

Four physicians have served as official beta testers since December, though other staff members have tested out the technology as well.

The ability of Google Glass to provide clinicians with real-time, hands-free patient information makes it potentially very useful in healthcare, John Halamka, MD, CIO of BIDMC, wrote in a recent blog post.

“Glass is a new medium that seems best suited for retrieval of summarized information and it really differentiates itself when it comes to real-time updates and notifications,” he wrote. “I believe wearable computing will replace tablet-based computing for many clinicians who need their hands free and instant access to information.”

Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital (Indianapolis)
IU Health Methodist Hospital recently became the first hospital in the country to use Google Glass to both remove a tumor and reconstruct an abdominal wall.

During the procedure, surgeons were able to use Google Glass’ voice commands to bring up the patient’s information and imaging results and view them without taking their eyes off the patient.

“The device offers a number of exciting potential applications for patient care,” says Paul Szotek, MD, one of the IU Health surgeons who performed the procedure. “I really think this could transform both what we do and how we do it.”

On March 13, Dr. Szotek used Google Glass to live-stream hernia repair and abdominal wall reconstruction surgery to an audience of approximately 600 physicians who had gathered in Las Vegas for the Americas Hernia Society’s 16th annual physician conference.

Dr. Szotek and his team plan on exploring additional uses for Google Glass, including providing remote assistance to first responders and combining the technology with tracers to help surgeons distinguish tumors from healthy tissue.

Rhode Island Hospital (Providence)
Rhode Island Hospital in Providence says it is the first in the country to use Google Glass in an ED setting.

In a six-month pilot program, the hospital’s ED physicians will use Google Glass to conduct video consultations for patients who require a dermatological consult. The glasses will be used to stream video of a patient’s skin to a consulting dermatologist as the ED physician examines the patient, allowing the dermatologist to provide real-time diagnoses or treatment options.

“While the initial study is limited to ED patients who require a dermatology consult, we recognize that the opportunities for Google Glass in a medical setting are very broad,” said Paul Porter, MD, an ED physician at Rhode Island Hospital and one of the pilot’s principal investigators, in a news release. “Ultimately, the use of this technology could result in better coordinated care, faster interventions, better outcomes, fewer follow-up office visits, fewer readmissions and lower costs for a wide range of disciplines, not just dermatology.”

The Google Glass sets used in the pilot were made HIPAA-compliant by health IT company Pristine.

UC-Irvine Medical Center (Orange, Calif.)
At UC-Irvine, Les Garson, MD, an anesthesiologist and associate clinical professor in the department of anesthesiology and perioperative care used sets of Google Glass enhanced with HIPAA-compliancy and high-resolution video streaming by Pristine to monitor residents’ procedures. While he was in another part of the operating suite, Dr. Garson was able to see what the residents saw on a tablet computer and could exchange audio alerts to stay in contact during the procedure.

After the trial phase, “our first thought was this could be a real benefit to patient safety,” says Dr. Garson, as it proved better than a pager for helping residents communicate with attending physicians.

Dr. Garson is now in conversations with the hospital’s administration to acquire more sets of Google Glass to expand their use in patient care. He believes they could also be used to provide backup support and teaching opportunities to residents in other situations, as well as to project safety checklists into a surgeon’s field of vision.

Next month, he plans to study the feasibility of using Google Glass to allow a non-expert to conduct an ultrasound while streaming the results back to a specialist, which would be useful in emergency response situations.

There are many possible applications of the technology, says Dr. Garson, as evidenced by the outpouring of ideas by physicians who try on Google Glass. “Every doctor that saw it wanted to try it on, and they usually had an idea of how it could be used,” he says. “Everyone can think of a way it could be helpful.”

Yale-New Haven (Conn.) Health System
Stephanie Sudikoff, MD, director of simulation at the SYN:APSE Center for Learning, Transformation, and Innovation at YNHHS, has been pursuing ways to use Google Glass to better evaluate the patient experience.

“We want to use [Google Glass] to see through the patient’s eyes to improve the conversations we have with them and improve their environment,” says Dr. Sudikoff. “We want to use what they are seeing and experiencing to make their experience with us better.”

Dr. Sudikoff and her team have conducted simulations using the technology, placing pairs of Google Glass on actors during mock physician consults or inter-hospital transfers. She participated in a mock consult with a Glass-wearing patient, and says she was “able to see the way they saw me, and see how to improve.”

Dr. Sudikoff and her team are currently working with YNHHS’ legal and regulatory team to make Google Glass secure and HIPAA-compliant before it is used with patients, but Dr. Sudikoff believes the technology will be ready to use with patients in a matter of months. In the future, she wants to explore using Google Glass for real-time patient consults as well.

More Articles on Google Glass:

Bridging the Physician Shortage With Google Glass
Why Hospitals Are Hesitant to Use Google Glass
How Google Glass Can Make Wrong-Side Surgery a True “Never Event”


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