Could Google Glass, the wearable device from Google, change the way health professionals deliver healthcare?

Just What Is Google Glass, and How Can it Help Improve Your Health?

Google Glass looks—and is worn—like a pair of glasses. Like a smart phone, the tech device runs on a battery, and provides a visual display, camera, audio, voice activation, storage, Wi-Fi capabilities, and apps galore. With Google Glass, the technology is always available at a glance. You view information on a display, which “floats” about eight feet away from you.

In healthcare settings, Google Glass can help health practitioners streamline activities that require gathering or confirming clinical data; it can be used in surgery or at a patient’s bedside. Google Glass applications in healthcare are still in the exploratory stage; however, here are a few of the ways in which professionals are experimenting with this technology:

  1. Remote access. Google Glass allows live streaming of images, so patients’ information can quickly reach remote specialists, for instance. This can be critical in time-sensitive situations, such as an accident, when patients need immediate care and cannot wait to be transported to a medical facility. Similarly, remote hospitals and physician practices can also tap into expertise at large medical institutions.
  2. Surgical assistance. During surgery, physicians can monitor and cross reference data about a patient’s status and vital signs without having to turn away from the patient and the surgical field. For example, physicians can view pre-loaded scans and x-ray images and—in real time—compare them with the actual surgical site.
  3. Improved quality of life for people with debilitating diseases. Patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease) eventually lose control over their muscles and rely on eye movements to communicate. Google Glass may allow these patients to use their eyes to type information onto a virtual screen to tell caregivers what they want or need.
  4. Chronic care management. As the U.S. population continues to age and the number of people with chronic health conditions increases, Google Glass may offer a way to remotely monitor individuals’ vital signs (for example, blood sugar levels) and activities (such as taking medications). This may allow more people to live independently, enjoy better health, require fewer expensive medical visits, and control spiraling healthcare costs.

One of the biggest challenges with Google Glass in healthcare is protecting patient privacy and confidentiality. But as health professionals continue to test Google Glass, they’ll no doubt uncover additional ways to use the technology to deliver more efficient and effective patient care.

Sheri Rowen, MD, reviewed this article


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