Ahier: Google Glass could be a powerful tool for disruptive innovation in healthcare
March 10, 2014.
“There’s lots of interest in Glass use by surgeons, EMTs, and nurses, for hands-free and real-time access to critical information. It’s justified. But there’s also been negative speculation about threats to patient privacy. What will patients think when they see their physician wearing Glass. In my opinion, it will become just another tool they associate with healthcare workers (less obtrusive than the head mirror that used to be a symbol of the medical profession). The bigger question should be, what will physicians and others think when they see a patient wearing Glass?”
I decided it was finally time to take the plunge and become a Glass Explorer and got my Google Glass just in time for the annual HIMSS conference to end. For those who have not yet seen Google Glass or don’t understand how they work, it is basically a computer strapped to your head in the form of a pair of glasses. It has a heads up display, voice activation and growing number of apps. Check out the Google Glass homepage to learn more. When you think about having all of the technology of a smartphone, and then some, incorporated into a pair of glasses it boggles the mind as to the various use cases for healthcare. I want to outline just a few and then think about what other innovative possibilities this type of technology could bring to the industry.
Last year Dr. Rafael Grossman, a surgeon and one of the Google Explorers based in Maine, used Google Glass during a Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy procedure. He was careful to not stream any sensitive data out via Google Glass and wrote about the experience on his blog. He said, “Obviously, the one of the main concerns regarding the use of Google Glass during surgery, with live streaming of data, would be to take every measure and to ensure the privacy of the patient’s health information.” Using Glass in healthcare certainly faces some serious privacy and security considerations. But this technology also seems to be very well suited to solving some vexing industry problems such as emergency medicine, some surgery applications, and telemedicine to name a f.
Hospital spokeswoman Ellen Slingsby says the emergency room sees about 100 patients a month with skin afflictions who require a dermatological consult. That should be a sufficient pool of prospective volunteers, Porter says, to adequately test Glass in the next six months. The team proposed the research to the hospital and later received funding for the project and so far the results are encouraging. They are using a solution from start-up technology company Pristine which created a Google Glass application that protects patients and meets federal laws for privacy so that no images or videos can be saved to the device.
RI Hospital begins using Google Glass technology
Pristine makes the app EyeSight, which enables physicians and nurses to transmit live video and audio of wound patients from Google Glass to authorized computers, smartphones and tablets. Since last October, Pristine has also been testing EyeSight through a pilot program with surgeons and anesthesiologists at UC-Irvine. The technology allows for more effective communication between UCI anesthesiologists and surgeons in the OR and allows for greater supervision of doctors-in-training. “We could be supervising two residents at the same time,” says anesthesiologist Leslie Garson. Garson also said Glass has proved useful during the 15 or so surgeries he has worked on so far, especially because he often monitors two or even three surgeries simultaneously.
“A resident could have Google Glass on, they could be looking at a monitor, and I could have a tablet down the hall and could see exactly what they’re seeing,” he said. “They can send me an alert — ‘Take a look at this,’ ‘Is this something I should be concerned about?'”
Dr. Patrick Hu (pictured at left) is an anesthesiologist at UC-Irvine and can share EKG information with other doctors via Google Glass. UCI Medical Center’s anesthesiology department has been instrumental in pushing for this technology, according to the hospital.
At UC San Francisco cardiothoracic surgeon Pierre Theodore, MD is using Google Glass during surgery. pre-loads CT and X-ray images needed for a procedure, and calls them up in his Google Glass to compare a medical scan with the actual surgical site. “Often one will remove a tumor that may be deeply hidden inside an organ – the liver, the lung – for example,” said Dr. Theodore, who’s also an associate professor in the UCSF School of Medicine. “To be able to have those X-rays directly in your field without having to leave the operating room or to log on to another system elsewhere, or to turn yourself away from the patient in order to divert your attention, is very helpful in terms of maintaining your attention where it should be, which is on the patient 100 percent of the time.”
He is the first surgeon to receive clearance for the use of the tech device as an auxiliary surgical tool in the operating room by a local Institutional Review Board (IRB), an independent ethical review board designated to approve, monitor and review biomedical research involving human subjects. He was introduced to the idea by Nate Gross, M.D., co-founder and medical director of Rock Health, a San Francisco-based digital health accelerator. Last summer Rock Health’s 5th class had a few winners who are focused on Google Glass and the digital health sensor market.
Other uses for this technology begin to stretch the bounds of my imagination. Just about anything we are using mobile devices for in providing healthcare could be possibilities for using this type of technology. Bedside medication verification, accessing patient health information, and overlaying information at the point of care, as well as all of the interesting pilots underway now. I am just getting started using my pair of Google Glasses and connecting with folks in the healthcare industry who are pioneering this technology. The next couple years will be some exciting times on this front. I’d love to get your thoughts on what some of the challenges and opportunities are in using Google Glass in healthcare.