Google Glass and the Future of Medicine

By Angela Dunn
09:43 AM

Will Google Glass Replace the Stethoscope?

One of the biggest trends for 2013 is wearable technology. Although the idea of wearing a device might make the average person feel like a cyborg, we are used to seeing doctors wearing devices.

In fact, a 2012 research study found that, among several icons of the medical profession, the stethoscope has the highest positive impact on-screen in determining a doctor’s trustworthiness!

Doctors Love Mobile Technology

Physicians in the United States have been leaders in adopting iPads and smartphone technology quickly, and almost ubiquitously. It is no surprise that Google hopes physicians may also be some of the earliest adopters of its wearable augmented-reality technology – Google Glass.

Google Glass displays information and access to the Internet in a smartphone-like format, but via a headset – hands-free – using natural language voice commands. You may have seen the recent video, “How It Feels through Glass”.

A Glass Explorer

Dr. Rafael Grossmann is a trauma surgeon at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine, who applied to be one of the first Google Glass Explorers. Dr. Grossmann, along with tens of thousands of hopefuls, applied to be part of the program by posting their ideas with the hashtag – #ifihadglass – on Google+ and Twitter.

I spoke with Dr. Grossmann about his vision for the future of medicine, his FutureMed 2013 experience at Singularity University, and his opportunity to preview a Glass demonstration direct from Google Glass inventor, Babak Parviz.

Watch the video with Dr. Grossman, or download the audio via SoundCloud.

Google Looking for “Bold, Creative Individuals” to Test Glass

Dr. Grossmann, @ZGJR, is certainly bold and creative. He is an innovator who pioneered teletrauma – a method of providing trauma care expertise using mobile technology, first using an iPod and later via smartphone.

“The expertise of any medical specialty, in my case, trauma surgery or acute care surgery, is difficult to get, especially in remote areas,” says Dr. Grossmann. Teletrauma has the potential to help 70% of the U.S. population that does not have access to a trauma center within 60 minutes of injury.

“Initially, I envisioned Google Glass for telemedicine to be able to connect by demand, and have a synchronous video conversation with a physician,” explains Dr. Grossman, “Then I thought, why not just have these glasses on all day long?”

“We can only dream of what instant crowd-sourcing, omni-access to the world’s knowledge and omnipresence could do to improve healthcare delivery, making it more efficient, less error-prone and hence safer, and less expensive. It could also give the user access to AI platforms that in the near future will play a pivotal role in optimizing medical decision making.” – Dr. Rafael Grossmann

Physician Workflow with Google Glass

On his blog, Dr. Grossmann describes his vision of a physician’s workflow with Glass. He sees Glass easily becoming a common healthcare tool he uses throughout the day in the hospital.

While doing rounds

  • Using “face-recognition” to display a patient’s current medical data and history.
  • Having lab results, pathology reports or radiologic images displayed right in front of his eyes.
  • Swiftly ordering new tests or procedures.
  • Calling in a consultant for a video chat.
  • Giving an update to a family member, if requested by the patient or through a Power of Attorney.

While in the OR

  • Consulting an expert, or checking any data for a better, safer surgery.
  • Taking a picture of a lesion or tumor, and having a pathologist or colleague give a timely opinion.
  • Updating relatives in the waiting room.
  • Streaming live video or photos during surgery via a secure network.

While consulting

  • Connecting to a request for expertise, without time or geographic barriers.

Other entries for #ifihadglass cited

  • Diagnosing patients via visual apps.
  • Immediate access to drug information and possible interactions.
  • Noting conversations with patients for future reference.

And even replacing the stethoscope, according to Kathi Browne, founder of the HealthTalk Community. If Dr. Grossmann is correct, we may see a whole new level of transparency, trust and communication between doctors and patients, too.

“If change is for good, change will eventually come. It is often hard to start…I think that persistence and patience is probably my best advice for physicians who are thinking about having technology help change the way we practice medicine.”

To learn more about Glass developments, you can subscribe to Glass updates, or find more great ideas at Project Glass on Google+. There is also an “AR Glasses” group on LinkedIn.

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