Doctors on cutting edge with new wearable technology...Google Glass
Doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are bringing the cutting-edge technology of Google Glass to the emergency room — for instant, hands-free access to patients’ records — and experts predict the device will soon be a common sight in Boston’s hospitals and beyond.
“I think 2014 will be a tipping point,” said Dr. John Halamka, chief information officer at Beth Israel. “It’s very clear to me the desktop is no longer the preferred device in health care. The idea of using tablets was very big in 2013. I think in 2014 we’ll see the early adopters (of Google Glass).”
Halamka and his colleagues are already among the first physicians in the country to test the new technology. Four emergency physicians have been using the glasses regularly, and the response — both from doctors and patients — has been positive, Halamka said.
Dr. Steven Horng, an emergency physician who wears the orange-rimmed specs during every shift in the ER, said Google Glass has already showed its potential, providing quick, critical information. He cited the case of a patient who was bleeding from the head and had trouble explaining his allergies and medications.
“He couldn’t remember that much because he was scared and overwhelmed,” Horng said. “He remembered he had an allergy to some sort of blood pressure medication.”
Horng identified the medication and learned that the patient was on blood thinners, a crucial detail, via Google Glass, which let him stay with the patient — instead of waiting for the patient to finish talking, so he could walk to a computer to look up information.
“This was a real streamlining of the workflow,” Horng said. “What we see is what we would normally see on a computer work station. We have access to an entire patient medical record.”
Beth Israel doctors have formatted patient data to fit the small screen. They have taken steps to make sure it’s protected behind the hospital’s firewall — and not publicly accessible on the Internet. The glasses are activated by bar codes in patient rooms, which link to patient records. They can also be programmed to display alerts — like a patient’s plummeting blood pressure.
As well as saving precious minutes, Google Glass lets doctors avoid touching keyboards and tablet screens that can carry germs and spread infection. And, Halamka noted, “You’re still making eye contact with the patient. You don’t have to look away. You’re not distracted.”
The $1,500 glasses also can be used to take videos of patients and surgery, a function being tested at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.
“There’s all kinds of potential,” said Dr. Joseph Kvedar of Partners HealthCare’s Center for Connected Health. Partners plans to test Google Glass soon. Kvedar predicts most physicians, already using laptops, tablets and desktops, will embrace the new technology.
“It can easily fit into your normal workflow of taking care of a patient and augment your care of them,” Kvedar said. “I think there will be a lot of interest in the physician community in wearables.”