Study: Google Glass Helpful in Health Care, but Drawbacks Remain

April 18, 2014 in News

Although Google Glass has the potential to improve medical and surgical care, the current design and performance of the device present significant barriers, according to a study published in the International Journal of Surgery, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

According to the Chronicle, the study is one of the first systematic reviews of the technology to be published in a medical journal (Lee, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/17).

Study Details

For the study, researchers in 2013 obtained a Google Glass device through Google’s “Explorer” program (Medical News Today, 4/17).

Lead study author Oliver Muensterer, a pediatric surgeon at New York-based Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital of Westchester Medical Center, wore the device daily for four consecutive weeks and used it:

  • During daily rounds;
  • In the clinic; and
  • In the operating room (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/17).

Muensterer recorded his daily activities with the device, and noted its potential applicability and drawbacks.

Study Findings

The authors noted that colleagues, hospital staff, families and patients had an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the technology (Medical News Today, 4/17). According to the study, the benefits of Google Glass included:

  • Capturing hands-free photo and video;
  • Finding billing codes;
  • Looking up unfamiliar medical terms up on the Internet;
  • Making hands-free telephone calls; and
  • Taking hands-free notes about the surgical procedure being performed.

However, the study also identified several drawbacks to the device, such as: 

  • A low battery life;
  • Hard-to-hear audio;
  • Privacy concerns over protected health data potentially being transferred to an unprotected server; and
  • Patient concerns that the device was secretly filming them (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/17).

Comments

Despite the barriers, Muensterer appeared optimistic about the device, saying, “We are just beginning to explore the functionality of this new device in medicine and surgery,” and “the applications of [Google] Glass are only limited to one’s imagination.”

The authors recommended that Google create an encrypted version of the device that would stream data to secure servers (Medical News Today, 4/17). According to the Chronicle, Google also has taken steps to improve the battery life of Google Glass since the study took place (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/17).

Muensterer noted that future studies will examine “how the projection of real-time [information] such as vital signs, laboratory values and X-rays onto the head-up display during a polytrauma resuscitation can aid the trauma leader in making critical decisions in a timely fashion without the need to look it up on a separate computer screen” (Medical News Today, 4/17).

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