Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital Uses Google Glass to Offer Patients Zoo "Visits"

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The view from many patients' windows at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital includes the neighboring Houston Zoo, a popular attraction in the city. Recently, through the use of Google Glass technology, the hospital was able to offer some of its patients the opportunity to "visit" the zoo without leaving their beds.

Over the course of three days, at least 10 patients at the hospital donned Google Glass and were connected via video chat with a zookeeper inside the Houston Zoo, who took them on a tour, provided an up-close look at some of the most popular animals and answered the patients' questions.

As a member of the Glass Explorer program, Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital was looking for a way to use Glass' native functions — one of which is the ability to participate in hands-free video calls through a Google+ Hangout. Because of the hospital's longtime relationship with the Houston Zoo, another member of the Glass Explorer program, partnering to conduct these virtual visits was a "natural fit," says Natalie Camarata, digital and social media manager for the Memorial Hermann Health System.

"Because the patients' rooms face the zoo, they see the traffic and the volume of the zoo's visitors, although they're often unable to visit themselves,” she says. "We wanted to give them the same experience, if not a cooler one."

Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital and the Houston Zoo worked together to identify a time period in which the organizations and their respective digital media teams could come together to establish the connection. Then the hospital's director of child life worked closely with clinical teams to help identify candidates who were at the hospital during that time and were well enough, medically and physically, to safely play with Glass and participate in the virtual visits.

"We were not short of volunteers," says Ms. Camarata.

The visits were an instant hit with the participating patients. "It was so rewarding to be a part of, to witness these kids experiencing the Zoo from their bedside and having a first-hand experience with the sea lions and other animals," says Ms. Camarata.

The young patients also adapted to using Glass very quickly and had almost no trouble navigating the voice commands or other features, says Beth Sartori, system executive of marketing for Memorial Hermann.

The hospital is currently exploring other uses for Glass to continue to take advantage of its unique features to improve care and the patient experience.

"Any way a patient could benefit from the use of this technology is worth looking into," says Ms. Camarata.  

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