Google Glass is the tip of the iceberg for wearable technologies

As an early Google Glass explorer, I see many ways this and other wearable technologies will soon enhance patient care.

Google Glass is “smart” eyewear that offers features similar to a “smart” phone: It can take photographs, video, make phone calls, display Internet-based information. The data is transposed onto the glass lens in the wearer’s field of vision. The device is activated by voice command or a touch to the tiny computer’s control pad on the side of the frame.

Glass is one of a new category of consumer products, known as wearable technologies that are poised to revolutionize medicine.  As an orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon, I was accepted as a Google Glass explorer in 2013. In early 2014, I used the Internet-connected glasses to broadcast an ankle replacement surgery live over the Internet during an annual charitable surgery training and education meeting for orthopaedic surgeons in India.

We had 15,000 to 20,000 people watching the procedure across the globe.  I realized that Glass wasn’t a gadget: It was a tool.  I envision Google Glass being used for medical education and training. In the near future, I believe the technology will enhance patient care in the operating room, the hospital, and clinics worldwide.

Imaging results, vital signs and other test results can be displayed on the glass screen and guide surgeons through precise operations. Yet even more exciting is the possibility of teleconsultation. As an expert in ankle replacement surgery, surgeons around the world — who may not have the same experience because of the low volume of patients — may call upon me or another ankle replacement expert for guidance during a complex procedure.  A surgeon may use Google Glass to reach me or other experts, who would communicate through Google Glass. The expert would be able to see what the surgeon is doing and guide them through a challenging surgery.

Similarly, community clinics in rural or remote areas could have access to an expert medical opinion to confirm or make a difficult diagnosis. Electronic medical records could be accessed in emergency situations, when a person is brought to the emergency room, or in the hospital. When a code is activated, any nearby physician or nurse is required to run to that patient’s room.  With Google Glass, these providers can pull up critical information that could change the way you save that person’s life.

Hospitals across the country are starting to explore ways to include Google Glass in their ORs, ERs, and clinics. They are using it to understand and enhance the patient experience, and their outcomes. HIPAA compliance issues are being carefully reviewed, and the best approach to using the technology, while protecting patient privacy is being considered.

Other technologies are around the corner that will allow patients to participate in their own care and collect data about themselves.  Smart clothes can keep track of your heart rate and activity level, smart contact lenses can monitor your blood glucose every minute, and baby socks can monitor or SIDS.

Wearable technologies are powerful. With Google glass we have only begun to explore the possibilities it holds for enhancing patient care.

Selene Parekh is an associate professor of surgery, division of orthopedic surgery, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC.

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  • James O’Brien, M.D.

    “Hospitals across the country are starting to explore ways to include Google Glass in their ORs, ERs, and clinics. They are using it to understand and enhance the patient experience, and their outcomes. HIPAA compliance issues are being carefully reviewed, and the best approach to using the technology, while protecting patient privacy is being considered.”

    What could possibly go wrong?

    They are banned in my office. There has to be a separation between private space and public space.

  • MarylandMD

    Google Glass **explorer**?? Oh, please, stop. It’s bad enough you buy into the Google hype, but to use the silly designation they give you?

    I would be very interested to hear your response to the very significant concerns raised in the article posted here a few weeks ago titled “Google Glass has a long way to go in the OR”.

    Your article does nothing to convince me that Google Glass is more than a gadget. What can you do on Google Glass that you can’t with an iPhone? And if there is such a desperate need for such technology, why hasn’t the job been done with cheaper and simpler to use off the shelf technology?

  • guest

    Am I the only one who thinks it’s a little disturbing that Google has such an overt goal to turn us all into cyborgs?

    • MarylandMD

      “Cyborg” can have such negative connotations that we would prefer you use the term “Explorer” instead.

      Please be mindful of this in future posts. Thank you.

      Sincerely,

      Google

      • May Wright

        Tee hee!

  • May Wright

    I will never accept a Glasshole as my physician. I will politely ask, as you would to a three-year-old who needs to put away his Tonka trucks now, “Please take those silly things off your face, and then we can continue”. And if they refuse, I’m walking.

    • guest

      “Glasshole can have such negative connotations that we would prefer you use the term “cyborg” instead.

      Please be mindful of this in future posts.

      Sincerely,
      Google

  • http://www.myheartsisters.org/ Carolyn Thomas

    Dear Dr. Selene,
    As recommended by MarylandMD, please stop referring to yourself as a Google Glass “Explorer”.

    While I’m at it, please don’t refer to yourself as a “thought leader” either. Ditto for “key opinion leader”.

    All of these just make people roll their eyes at you…