5 Medical Specialties That Can Benefit from Google Glass

Google Glass Healthcare

Learn how Google Glass and emerging health-compatible applications are changing the way physicians look at healthcare, literally.  Pristine’s Kyle Samani offers his insight.

Google Glass may have hit the open market with an air of exclusivity—with the wearable optical-mounted computer being available to the public at the bargain price of $1,500—but that hasn’t slowed conversation down about how the device could open a new world of possibilities for healthcare.

The healthcare industry has been abuzz about the hands-free device since Dr. Rafael Grossmann (@ZGJR) used the optical device to stream a routine surgery to medical students on June 20, 2013.  The advantages of Glass were immediately obvious to Grossmann, one of the first Google Explorers who considers himself a telehealth pioneer. Beyond a teaching tool, Grossmann recognized the potential for the device to enhance clinical consultation and physician communications. He piloted a teletruama program at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, ME, using mobile devices and tablets to provide remote trauma consultations with physicians in other locales. 

Related: Is Google Glass the Future of Teletrauma? 

The scarcity of trauma centers and experienced trauma professionals is a real problem that could be aided with mobile technology. After trying on Google Glass for size, Grossmann said he sees the device as the next evolutionary step in telemedicine. The hands-free capability of the Glass allows physicians to communicate and access information quickly. Quick enough to be the difference between life and death, said Grossmann. Turns out, he was right.

In April, Dr. Steven Horng of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA did just that with Glass—he saved a life. Horng said Google Glass assisted him in quickly accessing vital information while a patient was suffering from a brain bleed. The device was used not for a trauma consultation, but to quickly access the patient’s medical records to determine what medications were safe to administer. The patient had a known allergy to a blood-clotting medication, but it was not know which kind. IF Horng had to take the time to access that information in another manner, the patient may have not survived, he claimed.

Clearly, the value of Google Glass may be coming into focus. However, the device’s potential to advance healthcare can only go as far as those developing compatible applications to take it to that next level. Fortunately, many promising startups are emerging to help physicians both harness the potential and overcome the obstacles that come with donning Google Glass. Pristine, for example, has developed an app known as Eyesight, which assists surgical teams with streaming remote surgeries and consultations.

It’s the first and only HIPAA complaint video-based communication platform optimized for Google Glass in healthcare environments, securely streaming real-time audio and video from the device to authorized iOS devices, Android devices, Macs, and PCs anywhere in the world.  The Austin, TX-based company has also developed an app known as CheckLists, which provides role-based, configurable and voice-driven checklists to surgeons, nurses, support staff and technicians to ensure compliance and improve patient care coordination.

Thanks to the development of such applications, the number of specialties that could benefit from Google Glass is growing rapidly, according to Pristine’s CEO and cofounder Kyle Samani.  With his insight, here are five specialties that could greatly benefit from Google Glass and the words: “I need help. Can you come and take a look at this?”

1. Wound Care 

Telemedicine in wound care has always been difficult, if not impractical, said Samani. The traditional and bulky telemedicine carts never seem to produce the right camera angles or get close enough to the wound to enable clear diagnostics.

Google Glass solves these issues because it offers a direct view of what the physician or medical professional is seeing at eye level. When used in conjunction with the video and audio streaming capabilities of Eyesight, the professional donning the glasses is able to consult with a physician receiving the stream. “It allows the nurses to put both hands on the patient, but get the physician consultation he or she needs to effectively treat the patient,” said Samani.

The device and application will do the exact same during emergency consultations. “The carts are just too cumbersome to offer clear diagnostic functions and the carts get pretty beat up,” he said. “Google Glass and Eyesight can eliminate that.”

2. Surgery

As Grossmann has demonstrated, streaming surgery will be a much more seamless process through Google Glass. Surgical cameras that are often mounted on the forehead don’t provide the same view that Google Glass can.  Samani agrees with that assertion and says that Eyesight will aid physicians in streaming live surgeries for education and consultation purposes to medical institutions all over the world.

3. Anesthesiology

With the growth of Accountable Care models such as the Patient Surgical Home, anesthesiologists are taking on increasing risk, assuming new responsibilities and covering more ORs at a time. Enlisting Google Glass can help anesthesiologists improve efficiency and safety as payment models change, According to Samani.

Google Glass Healthcare

Kyle Samani, Pristine’s CEO

He explained: “CRNAs and anesthesia assistants are using EyeSight to stream what they’re hearing and seeing in first person – the anesthesia monitor, the surgical field, and the patient’s skin color – back to the attending anesthesiologist’s phone or tablet. This unprecedented ability to communicate reduces response times, mitigates patient risk, and improves OR efficiency. Anesthesiologists are also using EyeSight to help nurses deliver anesthesia in non-OR anesthesia settings – OB, GI, ER, and IR. Nurses in non-OR settings are using EyeSight on Glass to beam video back to the attending anesthesiologist. Anesthesiologists are using CheckLists to implement emergency protocols far more easily than ever before.”

 4. Intensive Care

Samani sees the same potential for Glass and both apps in intensive care settings:

Independent studies have demonstrated that traditional tele-ICUs aren’t cost effective. They are simply too expensive to deliver a financial ROI. Additionally, ICUs continue to struggle with checklist compliance for basic checklists, such as central lines. Using Google Glass in the ICU in conjunction with EyeSight can deliver the most important features of tele-ICUs without any capital investment. Similarly, employing an app like CheckLists allows nurses to run through important checklists more quickly without the current frustrations they now have to deal with,” he said.

5. Emergency Response

Telemedicine in emergency settings have been extremely difficult due to the simple logistical challenges, according to Samani. First responders often need to use both hands in critical situations, naturally. Having the hands-free ability to stream and consult through Google Glass, and an app like Eyesight, could make the difference between life and death.  

It’s the same assertion Grossmann makes about Glass’ role in teletrauma, as well as Horng when it comes to accessing EHRs during critical care situations. Google Glass has proven there is notable value to virtual communication while having your hands free. No wonder the possibilities seem endless to the likes of Grossmann and Samani.  As for the rest of us, I guess we have to get our hands on a pair first. Perhaps only then, will all the benefits of Google Glass in healthcare become clear. 

  • Kent

    Dead on a arrival. This has been tried before with other wearable visors and didn’t fly. Why? Clinicians don’t like wearing some goofy headset. And yes, we’ve tried Pristine’s half-baked solution and decided against it.