Beyond Google Glass hype. Is this a real-world way to use glass in healthcare?

The applications for Google Glass in healthcare often come in for criticism for the hype surrounding the spectacles. After all, it’s a little early to pronounce it as the future of healthcare technology even as hospitals figure out how they would integrate the technology and doctors fool around with potential uses. That hasn’t stopped health […]

The applications for Google Glass in healthcare often come in for criticism for the hype surrounding the spectacles. After all, it’s a little early to pronounce it as the future of healthcare technology even as hospitals figure out how they would integrate the technology and doctors fool around with potential uses. That hasn’t stopped health IT companies from developing innovative platforms for the technology.

A health IT company has developed a telemedicine platform with Google Glass as its centerpiece as one way to improve communication between clinical care teams. Preventable medical errors are a massive problem for hospitals and communication frequently plays a role. Remedy is in the midst of a few pilot programs to solve communication challenges in a few different medical settings.

Its Beam platform, which can be operated on a tablet or iPad, would be used for consults between clinical teams, such as between doctors or between a doctor and a physician’s assistant, for example. By transmitting a first-person perspective using real-time video and images, it can give remote participants a more accurate understanding of a patient’s condition in question and help with a diagnosis or treatment.

In a phone interview with Remedy co-founder Gina Siddiqui, she talked a little about pilot programs with hospitals and health systems, including Cambridge Health Alliance. The focus is patients who need surgical consults — high acuity patients. Among the medical staff taking part in the pilots are residents, nurses, attending surgeons and physician’s assistants.

“During this pilot testing we are learning exactly how our clinicians want to communicate, what is convenient about wearing Google Glass and what is still annoying.” One of the challenges associated with Google Glass is that medical staff say it doesn’t fit easily into hospital workflows.

Siddiqui said Remedy wants to move the way medical teams communicate to create a more visual experience. “We don’t see Google Glass as a medical device, but as medicine’s new communication device, replacing the mobile phone and the pager. It will make communication hands-free, sterile, instantaneous, and convey not just words but visuals as well.”

The idea is to punctuate some of the teachable moments that can get lost in the interactions between care teams. Remedy thinks this communication tool will revolutionize education by enabling real-time, focused guidance. “There are all these critical moments in the hospital where valuable feedback could improve patient care, but because there’s no way to capture them, the teaching opportunities slip away,” Siddiqui said.

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In reference to communication between clinicians and physician’s assistants, Siddiqui stressed that it was a way to improve the quality of these exchanges.

“Google Glass is no replacement for the clinical judgment that comes from years of training. Our goal is not to take away the most experienced clinicians from the bedside. Our goal is to bring them to the bedside sooner and to give them more complete information. We want to reduce the delays and miscommunications with the team on the ground that undermine patient care.”

She added, “Medicine is not an individual effort anymore. Our communication tools need to adapt to this reality. And people need to adapt too: We all need to put our egos aside, stop thinking just in terms of our specialty or our medical degree, and do what is best for the patient.”

Although Remedy is working in surgical departments, Siddiqui and the surgeons it’s working with see Google Glass and Beam bringing the greatest benefit outside the operating room. It would be particularly useful for settings where clinicians need to collaborate across distances with no easy way to share what they are seeing.

“We want to give clinicians the benefits of beaming their point of view without interrupting their work at all.”

Several companies are keen to develop ways to use Google Glass in hospitals such as Pristine and Augmedix, which uses Google Glass to improve the quality of electronic medical record data. Some hospitals such as Beth Israel Deaconness are testing the technology in departments such as the emergency room.
[Photo from Flickr by Antonia Zugaldia]