Google Glass: Life-saver?

Like other wearables, Google Glass promises to put an exciting new spin on mobility and accessibility. Integrating technology even more intimately with everyday items and natural, fluid actions, these gadgets offer new opportunities to bring digital resources into more situations. In an impressive display of how information technology companies are creating devices with extraordinary potential to transform many sectors, Google Glass may just have helped to save a patient’s life.

Boston doctor reports life-saving assistance of Google Glass

Spearheading a Google Glass pilot program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Dr. Steven Horng recently used the device to respond quickly to an urgent medical situation during an operation, The Boston Globe reported. While operating on a patient, Horng needed to know which blood pressure drugs the man was allergic to so he could administer the medication urgently required to staunch a brain hemorrhage. With little time to search through paper or computer records, the doctor looked up the patient’s record on his Google Glass screen and was able to save the patient’s life, the news source explained.

“We’re doing this to prove that the technology can work and really motivate others to explore this space with us,” Horng told the source. “Rather than having to excuse myself, it means I can quickly access that information without having to interrupt the patient, lose eye contact or even leave the room.”

Although the hospital plans to expand its use of the technology throughout the emergency department, there will be a learning curve as clinicians become acclimated to the devices, the newspaper noted. Like any new system, these resources will require both clinicians and IT professionals to become comfortable with them, learning how to use them and administer IT support to accommodate their unique requirements.

Addressing security concerns

Just as healthcare organizations must be vigilant about the security of their IT networks, particularly when adopting electronic health records and other systems that handle sensitive patient data, medical facilities have unique considerations for implementing Google Glass. However, IT professionals and healthcare leaders have worked on solutions to address some of these concerns, and Beth Israel isn’t the only hospital taking advantage of the technology. The Boston Globe highlighted that Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital and the University of California-Irvine Medical Center have both incorporated the devices into some of their doctors’ workflows.

In addition to standard security concerns that accompany most technological systems, there are patient privacy considerations since the device is technically capable of facial recognition, as The Verge pointed out. By default, the gadgets are also connected to a variety of apps and services, like any smartphone, which could potentially make information available to Google. To avoid this issue, Beth Israel worked with Wearable Intelligence to replace the default software on the glasses with custom Android versions that can be restricted to certain purposes, Recode explained. This way, doctors are prevented from using the devices for activities that could compromise information security, such as Twitter and Facebook.

Beyond the operating room

Google is experimenting with other patient care applications for its Glass. For instance, The Times of India described how the device could be used to assist people who have Parkinson’s disease. The idea is that the hands-free, intuitive gadget could help patients remain independent longer. The source explained that the sensors in the glasses could work with apps to help people with Parkinson’s through common symptoms like motor blocking, or “freezing.” The technology could also offer “discreet prompts” and reminders for medications and appointments.

In efforts like these, information technology companies are working with healthcare experts and researchers to design applications and programs that meet very specific needs, demonstrating the wide-reaching implications of new technology trends.

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