Looking Through the Google Glass

Image: CC BY 2.0 Robert Scoble

Image: CC BY 2.0 Robert Scoble

The first time I saw someone wearing Google Glass was at HIMSS14 in Orlando. My initial reaction: that guy looks like a geek. Not that I have anything against the geek look but I couldn’t imagine myself ever wearing Glass goggles while walking about in public. I’ve progressed a bit and no longer giggle when I see someone wearing a pair, yet I wasn’t impressed by the Glass-wearing guy (definitely a Glasshole) that I recently noticed driving in a car next to me.

On the other hand, plenty of folks in the health IT world were quite impressed with Dr. Rafael Grossmann, the first physician to record a surgery wearing Google Glass. Since that landmark event about a year ago, a small number of companies have popped up offering healthcare solutions that leverage Google Glass. It’s perhaps too early to tell which ones will still be around next year but here’s a short list (in alpha-order) of some that are making in-roads:

APX Labs – APX has built a robust, horizontal data-integration platform optimized for smart glasses. They promote their solution for a variety of industries in addition to healthcare, but the clinical applications focus on telemedicine, first responders, nurse and clinical EMR interfaces, vitals monitoring, administrative visibility, and medical education. From what I can tell, they either don’t have any healthcare customers yet, or, they are still opting to fly well under the radar.

Augmedix – Augmedix claims to be the world’s first Google Glass start-up and their application focuses on improving the clinical documentation process. In January the company conducted a pilot with the California-based Dignity Health, who provided three family physicians with Google Glass and Augmedix’s physician documentation app. After four months the doctors reported a drop in the amount of time spent documenting from 33 percent of their day to nine percent and an increase in time spent directly engaging with patients from 35 to 70 percent of their day. Compared to some other vendors, the Augmedix application appears to be more narrowly focused.

ContextSurgery – The Context-aware software is geared to the operating room and includes a Surgical Dashboard that pushes relevant patient information to Glass-wearing providers. The HIPAA-compliant application also supports video-sharing. I assume that the company is still in the development stage as they are looking for additional betas to test their product.

CrowdOptic – ProTransport-1 recently announced it will deploy the CrowdOptic Google Glass broadcasting solution in its ambulances and mobile medical machines to broadcast real-time video of patients in transport.  UC San Francisco is also testing CrowdOptic software to enhance physician training through the use of live video streaming from Glass devices.

Pristine – Pristine offers the EyeSight product as a HIPAA-compliant, first-person audio/video streaming solution optimized for Google Glass. Currently their platform is in use at several facilities, including UC Irvine Medical School and Houston Methodist Hospital (to allow physicians to broadcast procedures to students or for continuing education purposes) and Rhode Island Hospital (for remote dermatology consults). The Chicago-based MedEx Ambulance service also recently acquired Pristine’s technology to allow Glass-wearing paramedics to transmit live video and audio from an ambulance to an ER doctor.

Remedy – Remedy has launched a pilot study with three Harvard hospitals in which Glass-wearing PAs will connect with doctors (usually at night), allowing the supervising physicians to “see” the patients. Remedy is targeting its application for use by residents, medical students, general practitioners, nurses, and PAs to extend the reach of specialists.

Wearable Intelligence – Physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are using devices from WI as a means of gaining hands free access to patient charts. The company also promotes a procedural checklist application and telehealth and video recording options for healthcare. In addition to the high-profile BIDMC, the multi-national oil services firm Schlumberger also uses WI’s Glass applications.

I’m impressed by the number of big-name health systems that are giving Google Glass a test drive. It’s also interesting to note the diversity of applications, from telehealth, education, remote consults, and EMR access. By the time HIMSS15 rolls around next April I am sure we’ll have a clearer idea of which vendors have figured out the formula for success.

And regardless how hot the market gets, I doubt I’ll be Glass-adorn any time soon.

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Michelle Ronan Noteboom

Michelle Ronan Noteboom specializes in healthcare IT communications, marketing, and strategy. She spent seven years as an independent contributor for HIStalk and HIStalk Practice writing under the name "Inga" and as a freelance writer for various publications and health IT vendors. Michelle previously spent 22 years in healthcare sales IT working for Misys Healthcare Systems.