When some people see Google Glass, they may see a hot technology trend, an expensive distraction, or a threat to privacy.
When some doctors see Google Glass, they see the potential for better, more efficient patient care.
One of those doctors is Carl Spitzer, M.D., of Mill Valley, California. Spitzer and Craig Rosenberg, a Ph.D based in Seattle, have co-founded Healium, a startup dedicated to developing software for Glass with an eye on how wearable computing can help physicians. This latest technology development has particular significance for Spitzer, who is not only a practicing emergency physician at Marin General Hospital, but is also its chief medical informatics officer. It's his job to research the latest technologies and see if there are applications for his profession.
"I saw this as an opportunity to kind of create a solution that would serve my needs and the needs of the doctors that I'm serving, and also help patients," said Spitzer.
Rosenberg, with a deep background in user experience and systems design in a variety of industries, is Healium's chief technology officer. He and Spitzer view the hands-free nature of Glass as a potential advantage for ER physicians as well as first responders.
Healium's application provides patient intake information in the Glass heads-up display, and real-time communications with other doctors or facilities. Doctors and paramedics wearing Healium-powered Glass can record videos and send/receive them for consultation.
Those qualities highlight what Spitzer sees as the benefits of Glass for physicians - "the fact that it's wearable, the fact that it's on all the time and I can consult with it in the middle of a trauma resuscitiation, or in the middle of interviewing a patient," he said. "I can be seeing a patient in one room and get called by the nurse about a patient in another room, and be able to reference their lab results, their x-rays."
The result is more efficient time management - not to mention more time spent with patients, and less spent on inputting medical records information.
"The whole idea of having my hands free, and also having a computer that is present but isn't between the doctor and the patient - I'm having a conversation with you, and I have a heads-up display, I have a computer in front of me - that's really powerful, I think," Spitzer said.
Dr. Scott Ruhlman, a surgeon with Orthopedic Specialists of Seattle, agrees. "It would be very helpful to go back to the imaging (x-rays, etc.) very quickly with Google Glass, or even more powerfully, to be able to have access with other surgeons - to have an interoperative consultation with somebody 3,000 miles away - to say, hey, I'm looking at this, you see it, what do you think?"
Ruhlman points out the benefits for surgeons, but right now Spitzer and Rosenberg are focusing on emergency room uses. That extends to ambulance personnel and paramedics who can literally provide a better picture of trauma scenes than descriptions over radio scanners.
"It's one thing to hear that report," Spitzer said. "It's another thing to see the accident scene and to see the extrication (patient removal from accident wreckage) and that actually kind of helps to set the level of expectation for the types of injuries to expect, so it's another way that it can positively impact patient care."
Spitzer also believes it will be easier - not to mention less expensive and time-consuming - for physicians to simply record their patient interviews via Glass and then transfer that information into electronic health records. He's also aware of questions regarding patient privacy/confidentiality, so transparency and giving patients the ability to opt out are important.
"I think it's a very solvable problem. This is just a device, just like my cellphone or computer, and the fact that it's made by Google doesn't make it nefarious or intrinsically insecure," he said. "The security is in the software and in the policies that surround it."