If you follow technology news, you’ve probably heard Google is planning to release Google Glass, a head-mounted computer and camera, to the public in 2014. As a Google Explorer, I’ve been testing the first generation of Glass before it hits the market. The Glass Explorer Program is for people who want to get involved and help shape future technology. When I wrote to Google about what I would do “if I had Glass,” I explained I wanted to see how this revolutionary technology could make an impact on healthcare and potentially help physicians by seamlessly integrating into their clinical workflow.
As I’ve used Glass over the past few months, I’ve been most interested in exploring how it can enable more fluid communication between physicians and patients. If a physician can call up information such as lab results or medical records without having to turn away from a patient to look at a computer screen, does that optimize their interaction and personalize the patient’s experience?
I’ve also been following how my fellow Explorers are testing Glass for healthcare applications. Last August, an orthopedic surgeon at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center wore Google Glass as he performed ACL surgery, while across town one of his colleagues watched from his office and several students on campus watched on their laptops. Glass broadcast exactly what the surgeon was seeing, creating huge potential for training as medical students can watch an entire procedure from the surgeon’s point of view. In the future, surgeons might use voice commands to call up reference materials or lab results on the Glass display as needed. As the display technology in Glass matures, perhaps they could even pull up X-rays and other images for comparison. Surgery may be an ideal specialty to be the first adopter of this technology, and companies such as Pristine are accelerating this adoption.
For hospital nurses, Glass could allow them to continue walking and going about their business while receiving critical messages. Of course, as with many new technologies, Glass raises issues about privacy and security. Some people are concerned that they don’t know if I’m taking a picture while wearing Glass, or even recording a conversation. In a regular, real-world situation that could be an issue, but within the healthcare setting patients are likely to feel comfortable if they know and trust their doctors. In fact, as more people start to embrace technology, they feel good about their physicians having the latest products because they feel that means they are getting the best care.
Glass has many applications outside of healthcare. If you’re walking down the street, you can call up a map on Glass to find your way. You can videoconference easily with colleagues or friends, sharing with them what you see. I occasionally take photos while shopping, then send a message to my wife or daughter asking if this is the product they want. They can see exactly what I’m seeing, and I don’t have to pull out a camera or phone to point, shoot or text.
At the end of the day, technology is a means to an end. At this point, Glass is definitely revolutionary, but can it help physicians and nurses provide better care? Maybe with better software and the power of Google’s intelligence behind it, Glass may help create a higher level of engagement between caregiver and patient. As I get ready to trade up to the second generation of Glass, with a better processor and the ability to accommodate prescription glasses, I’d like to hear your thoughts. Will Google Glass have an impact on your healthcare organization and the way your staff interacts with patients?