Surgeons and other clinicians are turning to wearable technologies to improve treatment and patient outcomes.
Much has been made of Google Glass, a lightweight, powerful computer designed to be worn over the eye, as a novel consumer product, but clinical applications are being tested at hospitals nationwide.
At the University of California, San Francisco, lung surgeon Pierre Theodore, MD, wears Google Glass during surgery to access X-rays and other critical data while keeping his eyes on his work.
“Often one will remove a tumor that may be deeply hidden inside an organ — the liver, the lung — for example,” Theodore said in a university press release. “To be able to have those X-rays directly in your field without having to leave the operating room or to log on to another system elsewhere, or to turn yourself away from the patient in order to divert your attention, is very helpful in terms of maintaining your attention where it should be, which is on the patient 100% of the time.”
The Glass eyepiece sits above the wearer’s right eye, without obstructing the entire field of vision. Users can access information using voice commands and taps.
“If my vision is a tic-tac-toe board, it would take one of those upper corners,” Theodore said. “It feels like looking in the rearview mirror of your car. That rear view is always there when I need it, but it’s not there when I don’t.”
Technology innovation firm MedTech Boston recently held a Google Glass challenge among physicians and health care professionals. Video from keynote speakers sharing ways their respective hospitals are implementing the use of the technology recently has been made available.
Rafael J. Grossmann, MD, FACS, a general surgeon from Bangor, Maine, was the first surgeon to use Google Glass in live surgery, with video taken from his Google Glass device broadcast to a nearby iPad. “Google Glass lets you do anything you can do with a smartphone, but with your eyes,” Grossmann said in the video. “Google Glass is really a device that for me, represents the natural evolution of the computing device.”
Grossmann said 440,000 deaths happen annually from medical errors in the US alone, and this type of technology could help prevent those deaths.
“Forty times a week in the US, we have people who have wrong-side surgery, and I really think a device like this has the potential to really shape and improve the way we give health care and the way we teach health care.”
He said vital patient information such as known allergies, blood pressure and other pertinent data in patient records can be accessed with Glass while performing surgery.
Grossmann also said Glass will help more patients to be treated remotely, or by telemedicine. He said in the U.S., about 1 billion doctor visits occur annually. “About 80% of these visits don’t require a physical touch, so having a remote connection really has a reason. That’s why GG has so much potential.”
Theodore shared a similar perspective. “Poor decision-making is a chief source of poor outcomes among patients,” Theodore said. “So I think that’s one way the Google Glass can truly help, by providing data when we need the data.”