15 Things to Know About Google Glass in Healthcare

Google Glass is a voice-controlled, wearable computer implanted in eyeglasses that projects images into the user's field of vision. The technology was first released to a select set of "Explorers" in February 2013, a group which included a number of healthcare professionals who have since been exploring ways to incorporate the technology in care delivery.

Below are 15 things to know about the use of Google Glass in healthcare.

  1. One of the first places Google Glass was tested was in the operating room. Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center in Columbus was the site of the nation's first live-streamed surgery and remote consult using Google Glass. Organizations such as Duke University Health System and the University of Alabama at Birmingham continue to experiment with ways Google Glass can provide surgeons with additional resources or live-stream procedures to medical students for educational purposes.
  2. Medical and review boards are taking note of Google Glass' promise, especially in the OR. In December, a surgeon at UCSF became the first in the country to receive approval from the Institutional Review Board to use Google Glass during surgery. The technology allows Pierre Theodore, MD, to pre-load CT and X-ray images into the device, and then see them during surgery in his peripheral vision, allowing him to compare the medical scan with the surgical site without taking his eyes off the patient.
  3. Hospitals and health systems have also found Google Glass to have potential uses in the emergency department. In March, Rhode Island Hospital in Providence launched a six-month pilot program during which Google Glass will be used to conduct video consultations for patients who require a dermatological consult. At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, four ED physicians are testing Google Glass for hands-free access to patient medical records.
  4. One ED physician at BIDMC says using Google Glass to bring up patient records helped him save a man's life, according to the Boston Globe. The patient had internal bleeding in his brain, and Google Glass allowed the physician to see which medications the patient was allergic to without leaving his side, enabling him to quickly administer the correct life-saving medication.
  5. Google Glass also has the potential to enhance medical education. UC Irvine recently announced its medical school will become the first in the country to use Google Glass in all four years of curriculum, from first-year anatomy courses to fourth-year hospital rotations. The devices will be used to supplement traditional lectures and classes. For example, patient encounters at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., will be live-streamed to students in lecture, providing students with real-world insight.
  6. Google Glass could also potentially help alleviate a physician shortage by facilitating remote consults. For example, Wound Care Advantage, which helps hospitals manage wound care programs, has employed Google Glass to allow physicians treating patients with serious wounds to connect to an offsite specialist for a consult.
  7. Several organizations have also used Google Glass to help improve the patient experience. At Yale-New Haven (Conn.) Health System, actors have used Google Glass during mock patient interactions to allow physicians to literally see how they look through patients' eyes. Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital used Google Glass to allow pediatric inpatients to remotely "visit" the Houston Zoo.
  8. An online community, Healthcare Glass Explorers, acts as a forum for its 755 members to share ideas and best practices for using Google Glass in healthcare.
  9. Patients with chronic conditions could also benefit from wearing Google Glass. For example, wearing Google Glass may help Parkinson's disease patients manage their condition and restore some independence by putting medication reminders in the patients' field of vision and allowing patients to connect hands-free to caregivers or emergency medical services, according to a new study.
  10. Despite potential benefits, health consumers might not flock to Google Glass. According to research from IDC, more than 112 million wearable health devices will have been sold by 2018. However, the report suggests Google Glass' high price tag (currently $1,500) will likely prevent widespread adoption when the technology becomes more publicly available.
  11. While many hospitals are embracing Google Glass, many more are hesitant to use the technology because of HIPAA concerns. "We are struggling with the limitations" of what is legally allowed under HIPAA, Rasu Shrestha, MD, vice president of medical information technology at Pittsburgh-based UPMC, told The Wall Street Journal. Currently, Google does not offer business associate agreements for Glass, meaning hospitals have to take additional steps to ensure HIPAA compliance when using the technology.
  12. Many startups, recognizing the potential of Google Glass to impact care delivery, have begun developing apps to not only navigate HIPAA compliance but also improve video quality and allow for easier EHR access.
  13. These apps are attracting significant investor interest. San Francisco-based Augmedix, which has developed an app that records to and then displays patients' records through Google Glass, has raised $3.2 million in venture capital to grow the company and increase outreach efforts.
  14. Pairs of Google Glass have been mostly available through the Explorers program. However, on April 15, 2014, Google hosted a one-day sale where members of the public could purchase a pair for the same $1,500 Explorers pay. Google is expected to begin offering Google Glass to the public on a more permanent basis in the near future.
  15. According to recently released patents, Google is currently working on a contact lens with similar functionality as Google Glass.

More Articles on Google Glass:

Health Data Connectivity To Be Widespread By 2025, Survey Finds
UC Irvine Brings Google Glass Into Medical School Curriculum
The Case for Medical Scribes in Emergency Care

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