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Google Glass in healthcare: Maybe it will be useful, after all

Consumers may or may not cotton to Google Glass, but in healthcare, there are opportunities for using the device -- especially among surgeons.

While consumers may or may not make Google Glass a runaway hit like the iPad or iPod, in healthcare the use of Google Glass is slowly becoming a reality, finding traction among surgeons who can use the device as a teaching tool. This innovative technology provides the combination of augmented reality and a wearable device for a new way to capture and interact with information.

We are also starting to see how the potential for similar devices is taking shape, moving hardware vendors to plan their own Google Glass alternatives. While app developers are still trying to come up with creative apps to help drive the value of Wi-Fi-connected eyewear, in healthcare there has been somewhat limited exposure, even though in the end these devices could potentially have a big impact.

Surgeons are blazing the Google Glass healthcare trail. In Ohio, a surgeon used the device to live stream a surgical procedure to share with his peers. In this instance, the device was mostly used as a means to offer the surgeon's view to other interested colleagues.

In a similar vein, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center anesthesiologist David Feinstein, M.D., in cooperation with Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV (also known as Royal Philips), used the device for the following activities:

  • Perform data query functions. The surgeon demonstrated the ability to use Google Glass to issue verbal commands and retrieve patient data stored in Beth Israel's electronic health record.
  • Issue verbal commands to control medical devices.
  • Monitor patient vitals from his view behind the eyewear during procedures in the operating room.
  • Capture information hands free that ended up in the patient's digital record.

These capabilities show that devices such as Google Glass already offer significant functionality that can be used to enable digital transformation within a hospital. While these developments may be exciting, they still have a long way to go. The devices will need to undergo additional review by industry stakeholders -- and perhaps regulators -- to ensure their security, reliability and stability. As we wait for these gadgets to enter the consumer market, their functionality and physicians' creative explorations of their potential will continue to fascinate us.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development with Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the health care industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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