Health IT

#ifIhadGlass: Google’s new gadget could turn Cleveland Clinic’s empathy video into reality

Metadata is in the news now, but it is invisible to most of us (unless you are a contractor for the National Security Administration). Most of us will never see the details of your colleagues’ cell phone calls (who they are calling, where they are making the call from, or how long it lasts) or Internet browsing (search terms, e-mail activity, web site visits).

If you haven’t this Cleveland Clinic video yet, it’s worth every minute. Dr. Toby Cosgrove played it at Datapalooza and there was a Twitter exchange about it during ENGAGE. It chokes me up every time I watch it. It illustrates how personal health metadata could help us be kinder to one another, how all consuming health problems can be, and how much emotion is involved in healthcare.

There has been a lot of fretting about the potential for invasion of privacy and overall creepiness of Glass. Think if some creative soul could use Glass to make us all more empathetic? Could we create our own tags like the people in the video? Could we set a public status that puts our mood in context for the day?

Maybe people in the waiting room might be less impatient and frustrated about long stays in a doctor’s waiting room if they knew why a doctor was spending so much extra time with a particular patient. Maybe doctors could slow down when delivering bad news or complex treatment information.

Maybe pharmacists could tell which people need more time or more help understanding medication instructions. Maybe we could all help each other deal with pain and loss. Sometimes people just need a small push to have difficult conversations – particularly about end of life care and treatment – and this personal metadata could do that. It could create an opportunity to ask “What’s wrong?” or to just offer a word of support.

Certainly there are privacy issues and certainly the world is made up of both oversharers and intensely private people. The status would never be required and it should have an off switch.

Google has a fund set up to support Glass products and they are actively looking for ideas. I will be voting for and writing about any solution that helps all of us deal with the intense emotion around health and healthcare.