The Power and Hype of Google Glass (Part 2)

In my last post about Google Glass, I talked about areas in healthcare where Glass might be of impact in the short term. The areas I listed were:

  • EMT and emergency medicine settings;
  • ICU and patient monitoring;
  • High-volume ambulatory practices (hands-free EMR and E-Rx);
  • Surgical settings (inclusive of anesthesia).

In truth, I think we’re going to see a lot of applications built and tested on Glass in health. I’m betting a good number of them won’t make sense or see sustained uptake and adoption. I guess you might as well let 1,000 flowers bloom and see what comes out of it. As long as investors and developers are willing, assuming early adopters are ready to test, why not?

I’d love to have some frontline clinicians (i.e., potential users) chime in about how they think Glass might or might not fit into their workflows. I’m a fan of medical education and I’ve seen writings about the use of Glass in medical education and training, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

With the examples listed above, the key is to be able to deliver something on Glass that makes more sense than on a smartphone. Smartphones are cheaper and obviously more prevalent than Glass. If you are freeing the data from EMR or monitoring systems anyway, it’s a matter of choosing where to display it.

Here are my specific initial use cases (I’m cheating and only doing three of four today).

EMT and Emergency

By this, I mean real emergencies, not people that use the ED for sore throats and for primary care. In a real emergency, when the patient is still in the field (pre-hospital), there are several ways I can see Glass or some other form of wearable computing being used to improve care. Data from devices and on meds given can be called up hands free by EMTs in the field. It would  be cool to offer a way to communicate through Glass to EDs about patient status. Of course if you’re showing the data to the EMT, there’s no reason you can’t stream it to the ED as well. If the video and image quality capture on Glass is good enough, I wonder if ED docs would like to be able to visually assess high risk patients through the eyes of the EMTs?

Once the patient is in the ED, the ED and trauma docs could use Glass mounted on eye protection to pull up data while they work on the patient. They could have nurses and others in the room call it out as well, as that is how they accomplish hands-free access today. It might actually make more sense to have things called out to assure everybody is on the same page about what is happening in the room and with the patient. The problem with Glass in this specific use case is it’s totally individual unless the Glass wearer is shouting out what they see on Glass.

Another use of Glass in the ED would be to allow streaming of video to trauma or other emergency specialists. I was thinking of telestroke potentially but I’m not sure I see the value in Glass over a smartphone for telestroke.

ICU and Patient Monitoring

Glass screens are small. I really don’t like the way that plain text looks in the demo video of glass. With patient monitoring in the ICU, dashboards are needed. The best example screen to look at to get ideas is the weather screen from Google, pictured below (try to ignore the dog and imagine a patient with tubs and monitors).

I think you could create three tiles, maybe four, for each patient. One for labs (using abbreviations like "K" and "HCO3"), one for vitals, and one for waveform data (if it looks decent on Glass.) Use colors like red to indicate values that should not be missed. Simple stuff that could be pretty cool for both ICU docs and nurses.

Design wise, this is pretty simple. It’s a matter of freeing the data from devices more than anything. The display options are the major limitation.

Surgical Settings

As a rule, surgeons work with their hands during cases, and being sterile limits options for interacting with the extended environment. The ability to pull up images and to take images and/or video from the surgeon’s point of view is very cool. I remember as a med student having to break sterile to take pictures of certain interesting cases with my phone for the surgeon who wanted them for future reference or potentially for publication. I suppose saving it in the med record would also be valuable.

The same holds true for real-time physiologic data. Similar to the ICU use cases, getting Glass tiles of what the anesthesiologist is seeing would probably make surgeons happy, at least the ones I’ve seen in cases. If they’ll lean over the curtain to get a glimpse, they may be willing to ask Glass to show them the data.

All of these scenarios require the data to be available, so that’s the first step. I’m betting on at least one of these examples will be an early Glass health application. What would you bet on?

Travis Good is an MD/MBA involved with health IT startups. More about me.

↑ Back to top

Founding Sponsors

Platinum Sponsors