Mayo Clinic



May 27, 2014

The future of health care at Mayo Clinic welcomes Google’s new wearable mobile technology, Google Glass — a miniature electronic device incorporated in glasses — that allows users to interact with the internet without using their hands. Glass wearers can use spoken language to view, record, and transmit information.

Glass is currently in beta-test stage, says Alfred Anderson III, Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation (CFI) technology director, and not yet commercially available. Approximately 10,000 people have Glass, early adapters who participate in Google’s Explorer program. At Mayo Clinic, several physicians and administrators are testing Google Glass across different specialties and departments:

  • Vernon Smith, M.D., emergency medicine physician, received an invitation to participate in the Explorer Program from Singularity University, a Silicon Valley-based group of educators who use technology to address humanity’s hardest problems.
  • Mark Henderson, IT division chair, and Eric R. Ihrke, with Endpoint Technology, developed a prototype Glass application for searching patient records triggered from a bar code on hospital room door cards. “This was an exploratory effort to learn more about the capabilities of the Glass device,” says Henderson. He has also used Glass’ hands-free function for routing and navigation, and to access how-to video services, such as YouTube, for step-by-step vehicle maintenance.
  • Timothy Sewell, with Information Security, applied directly to the Explorer program and was accepted. “Information Security is analyzing Glass to understand how information is collected and stored by the device,” says Sewell, “and developing strategies to safely use Glass at Mayo in a variety of settings, including patient care.”
  • Nita Sharma, operations administrator, confirms that Mayo Clinic in Arizona hopes to explore how the technology may be helpful for use in providing teleophthalmology services for patients in the ambulatory setting for acute issues of the anterior of the eye.
  •  Roseanne Kho, M.D., a former Mayo Clinic gynecologic surgeon, uses Glass in vaginal surgery to allow simultaneous projection of the procedure to overhead monitors in the operating room. This allows trainees and other personnel to follow the surgery and anticipate needs. In addition, Glass not only promotes operating room efficiency but also facilitates teaching and learning of what, otherwise, can be a challenging procedure.

Dr. Smith says that several applications already promise great potential, including:


  • Patient identification for exams and especially in the Emergency Department (ED), where providers can view information before entering the unit.
  • Photographs in the ED of patients’ injuries.
  • Access to EMR, care team personnel and family information that removes the computer as a barrier between provider and patient.
  • Hands-free audio and video streaming for education, including the ability to project what is seen on a screen to share with others and access lab work, documentation and resources during surgical applications.

Anderson says that multiple companies are experimenting with Glass. “They’re making it suitable for health care by removing the Google software and replacing it with medical-grade security. These changes allow medical information to be safely transmitted.” Much of the experimentation has occurred at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

From a security perspective, says Sewell, Glass may enable tremendous new work flows in a physician setting, but it also creates incredible challenges. “Any data involved goes directly to a internet-based cloud for storage,” says Sewell. “And it’s crucial that only those who should see patient data can see it.”

If you or your health care organization are using Google Glass in the work place, share your experience in the comments below.


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