Study shows that Google Glass has potential use in surgical settings

An international team of researchers has shown the potential applications for Google Glass in the surgical setting, particularly in relation to training.

Related: Google Glass promising as assistive aid for Parkinson's patients

Google Glass—a so-called "wearable computer" or "head-worn display"—is worn like conventional glasses and combines a computerized central processing unit, touchpad, display screen, high-definition camera, microphone, bone-conduction transducer, and wireless connectivity.

The authors of the study obtained a Glass device through Google's Explorer Program and have tested its applicability in their daily pediatric surgical practice. The attending surgeon wore Glass daily for four consecutive weeks, keeping a daily log and identifying activities with potential applicability.

Colleagues, staff, families, and patients overwhelmingly had a positive response to Glass and several useful applications for the technology were found, including hands-free photo/video documentation, making hands-free telephone calls, looking up billing codes, and Internet searches for unfamiliar medical terms or syndromes.

However, there were also several drawbacks to the early technology. Oliver Muensterer of New York Medical College's Division of Pediatric Surgery and Westchester Medical Center's Maria Fareri Children's Hospital (both in Valhalla, NY), who led the study, says that "a big issue with Glass is how to handle patient privacy, particularly because the device connects to the Internet via WiFi and thereby streams its data through Google's servers. By the way, these issues are the same that currently exist with physicians using their smartphones for applications pertaining to patient care, including taking photos of pertinent findings. It would be great if an encrypted version of Glass were available in the future for medical use, including the exclusive streaming to secure servers."

"In the future, we are going to study how the projection of real-time info 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. This is just one of the clinical applications we envision for Glass."

For more information on the work, which appears in the International Journal of Surgery, please visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijsu.2014.02.003.

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