Beth Israel Deaconess Rolls Out Google Glass In the ER


Boston, MA-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is expanding its use of Google Glass after finishing a successful pilot in the ER earlier this year. BIDMC’s ER is is a high-volume Level 1 Trauma Center that sees an average of 55,000 visits per year. The overall goals of the project were to evaluate whether Google Glass technology could be implemented in a way that improved efficiency and service in the ER.

BIDMC’s pilot of Google Glass began in December 2013, when four ER doctors and 10 other clinicians dawned the headsets and began using them to access patient records at the bedside. Physicians have long suggested that bringing computers into the exam room has had an overall negative impact on the doctor-patient relationship. The hope for Glass is that it can present information to doctors in a somewhat less obtrusive way, while simultaneously improving efficiencies around searching for and finding patient charts within the ER dashboard system.

Prior to rolling Glass out to clinicians, the devices were modified, stripping them of their ability to communicate outside of the BIDMC firewalls or upload data to Google’s cloud. Instead, the glasses communicate with locally hosted apps and clinical information system through an encrypted internet connection.


With HIPAA-compliant glasses in place, BIDMC still had the task of developing a new clinical information system to run on them, and then rolling the system out across the ER for the pilot. This work was accomplished under the direction of CIO John Halamka, MD. Halamka’s team developed a modified version of BIDMC’s homegrown ER tracker that sliced clinical information into Google Glass cards that doctors could scroll through to display key information about a patient, such as chief complaint, allergies, medications, test results, images, and vitals. “It looks weird,” says Halamka, “but it’s better than staring at a tablet or a laptop."

Inside the ER, monitors were mounted outside of each patient’s room that display a QR code. On the way into the room, ER physicians scan the code, and the patient’s record is immediately returned within the Google Glass viewer. One participant of the pilot, Dr. Stephen Horng, said “Over the past 3 months, I have been using Google Glass clinically while working in the Emergency Department. This user experience has been fundamentally different than our previous experiences with Tablets and Smartphones. As a wearable device that is always on and ready, it has remarkably streamlined clinical workflows that involve information gathering."

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