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Goodbye charts: Boston docs using Google Glass for patient history

We’ve already seen Google(s goog) Glass help out firefighters, sleepy drivers and interviewees. Doctors have been a potential user group based on wearing Glass during surgery and a preview program last year that suggested using Glass for patient history. Now that too is a reality at one hospital in Boston.

Google Glass ER doctor

At the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the emergency department created its own prototype software for Glass so that doctors can quickly get a patient’s medical history and current health information simply by looking at a QR code that represents the patient. Ars Technica found a blog post from John D. Halamka, MD, MS, the hospital’s Chief Information Officer that explains how it works:

“When a clinician walks into an emergency department room, he or she looks at bar code (a QR or Quick Response code) placed on the wall.  Google Glass immediately recognizes the room and then the ED Dashboard sends information about the patient in that room to the glasses, appearing in the clinician’s field of vision. The clinician can speak with the patient, examine the patient, and perform procedures while seeing problems, vital signs, lab results and other data.”

According to Halamka, the patient data is never seen by Google, which I suspect would be a HIPAA violation. Instead, the prototype app was written so that all personal information stays behind the hospital’s firewall and is never sent to Google’s or anyone else’s servers.

The app was written in a way that presents as much information as possible for the doctor without cluttering up the display. You can see in the above picture there are three different “cards” of data for a test patient. How well does it work? It’s already effectively saved at least one life based on a scenario where a patient couldn’t remember what medications he was allergic to. According to the attending ER doctor, he was able to take immediate necessary action:

“Google glass enabled me to view this patient’s allergy information and current medication regimen without having to excuse myself to login to a computer, or even loose eye contact. It turned out that he was also on blood thinners that needed to be emergently reversed. By having this information readily available at the bedside, we were able to quickly start both antihypertensive therapy and reversal medications for his blood thinners, treatments that if delayed could lead to permanent disability and even death.”

Glass may be ridiculed as an expensive piece of hardware that’s good for taking pictures, but software is what’s going to prove the value of a wearable computer.

7 Responses to “Goodbye charts: Boston docs using Google Glass for patient history”

  1. Ryan McGowan

    Looking at those cards, that already seems like too much information for Glass. 5 or 6 lines of text is about all I want to see on Glass before it becomes annoying to read. The screen is small, and it’s not in a comfortable place to look for a long time. You want to look for a moment, and then look away and go back to what you’re doing.

    • snuggles

      Because in a hospital that patient might be bounced around from one place to another. And in the ED (it’s not an emergency room, it’s a *department*), a QR code is simple enough to keep as a patient goes from A to B as part of their evaluation. The ideal placement would be on the patient’s wristband, I think (depending on how Google Glass reads, etc.)

      Dr. Halamka does run a pretty tech-savvy operation and is very rare for a CIO in healthcare. The real genius, I think, is the distillation of patient data from the EMR into useable format in Google Glass. Too often the human factors get in the way, and if a doctor has to go through pages of information, it could lead to errors.

      • [If it is true] It indeed is rare. Having a Dr as a CIO can be very very good. But almost always, it is very very very bad. Keeping technologically competent takes a lot of effort. Doing that and keeping up with the medical world is super human. Most people can’t keep up with just one. And that defines the typical CIO.

    • Ryan McGowan

      It would be too easy to pick up the wrong patient records. That’s far too dangerous in a hospital. Imagine someone getting the wrong drug that reacts with a drug they were already on. It’s vital that they have the right patient (Pun intended). My first thought at seeing the QR Code is that it should be on the patient’s bed or wrist, and not the room.

      • Justin Freitag

        I totally agree that there’s little/no room for mistakes. Glass (and other wireless devices) could make very effective use of Bluetooth LE (beacon) wrist tags on patients that provide immediate, near and far range/proximity data. To avoid mistakes Glass could present the wearer with sufficient data (such as a photo/s, etc.) to verify that they’re dealing with the correct patient and additionally require some form of acknowledgement. We’re already seeing widespread use of Wifi-based RTLS devices/systems that aid in patient and asset tracking and utilising similar technologies to deliver patient data in real time is a logical and practical next step.