In the past six months or so, a handful of surgeons have been in the news for streaming their surgeries live on Google Glass, generally via Google Hangout. But this is just one application for the technology in the health care world. Noor Siddiqui, a 19-year-old who opted to bypass college in favor of a $100,000 Thiel Fellowship, is working on another.
Beam, a secure Google Glass platform that allows health care providers to share images, text, video and location, was developed by Siddiqui and her sister Gina, a former medical student at the University of Pennsylvania. When Siddiqui began her fellowship in 2012, she was focused on the ambitious goal of ending poverty (every Thiel fellow works on a project). But after visiting Gina at school, she was struck by the lack of technological innovation in the medical world. After they came up with the idea for Beam, Gina left school and joined Siddiqui in San Francisco to work on the app full-time.
When I ask for a use case, Siddiqui gives the example of a patient who visits a physician's assistant with a nasty burn. Instead of calling a supervisor to describe the case, they can take pictures with Beam, which automatically assigns a case number to the patient. When the surgeon supervisor logs into their Beam "expert interface," they can see all the cases they're supervising and the images and videos that have been uploaded. Beam also allows for synchronous consults—that is, the physician's assistant could stream first-person video live with a remote specialist.
It's more useful for doctors than a Google Hangout connection, she says, because it's secure and easier to access. "There are a lot of problems with Glass out of the box, a lot of screens to navigate through," she says. If I'm in an emergency situation, I don't want to be tapping through a bunch of screens. With Beam, it's one tap to connect to an expert, and cases start automatically as soon as you put the device on your head."
In late March, doctors at Harvard and The University of Pennsylvania began testing Beam through a pilot program. And Siddiqui says that Beam is just the first product we'll see from Remedy, a hardware-agnostic company working on wearable health care technology. "We're using Google Glass right now because it's the most well-developed platform, but we'll be on any wearable we see as most appropriate for health care," she says.