2013-08-20

Don't Be Scared If Your Surgeon Is Wearing Google Glass In The Operating Room

Google's head-mounted computers may not be on everyone's face yet. But in hospitals, doctors are already seeing how they could change health care.

For most people, Google Glass still seems like little more than a gimmick. But in health care, doctors are already finding uses for the technology that could one day save your life.

Five years down the line, don't be surprised if surgeons are wearing Google Glass in the operating room. In fact, some surgeons—in San Francisco, naturally—are early adopters of the technology already. At Rock Health's recent Health Innovation Summit, Dr. Pierre Theodore, a cardiothoracic surgeon at UCSF Medical Center, described his experience wearing Google Glass while performing surgery, using the glasses to compare the patient's CAT scan images with what he was seeing in front of him.

"There was a cognitive integration between what I saw in front of me and the radiographs. It was extraordinarily helpful," he said. Theodore likened the experience to driving a car and glancing in the rearview mirror; the CAT scan images don't distract from the main focus of operating on a patient.

Glass could also be used as a teaching tool in the operating room. One surgeon live-streamed a procedure (leaving out the patient's face) using the device. He wrote: "I was able to show not just the patient’s abdomen, but also the endoscopic view, in a very clever, simple and inexpensive way."

Surgeons aren't the only ones in the operating room who could make use of Google Glass. Theodore imagines that anesthesiologists could also benefit by keeping an eye on data from monitors while completing other tasks in the operating room.

Outside the operating room, there are even more applications for the technology. Ian Shakil, CEO of Augmedix (a Google Glass health app company), discussed the possibilities for Google Glass to help doctors and patients improve their communication. "Doctors spend a quarter of the day or more feeding the beast" of dealing with menial tasks like reimbursements and coding, he explains. Glass—and potentially Augmedix, which isn't revealing details about what it's working on yet—could change that.

Shakil imagines that doctors could use Google Glass's microphones and cameras to record patient interactions (with consent, of course), making it easy for them to remember and recall specifics. Patients could even get a copy of the recording from their visit. "It's all about full disclosure and informing the patient," Shakil said.

For advocates of the technology, the big challenge will be convincing doctors who have set routines that it makes sense to incorporate Glass into their workdays. As the slow transition over to electronic health records has proven, that's no easy feat.

[Base Image: Flickr user DualD FlipFlop]

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2 Comments

  • Jessica Johnson

    Brilliant! Very smart application of the technology. I always have my doubts about google glass but this one's a great use of it.

  • Grace Cleaves

    Rafael J. Grossman, MD, FACS, Maine trauma surgeon/TEDx speaker/m-Health Innovator, was actually the first physician in the world to transmit a live surgical procedure using Google Glass in mid-June, 2013.