Written by Vinil Menon & Arundhati Pawaskar for mHealthNews (Source)
Google’s new wearable technology, Google Glass, is seen as one of the most anticipated, transformative and breakthrough devices since the smartphone. With hands-free web and camera access capability, Google Glass has the ability to redefine various industries and in the healthcare space, this type of technology is likely to play a transformational role in the way care is delivered.
Enhancing access to patient data in the inpatient setting
While the industry’s attempt to digitize data has been fairly successful, EHR systems still struggle to make much of this information readily accessible to various stakeholders. Glass addresses both the mobility and accessibility challenge by providing a ubiquitous interface to share all kinds of healthcare data anywhere, at any time, with a few interesting benefits:
- Optimizing the caregiver’s time - Physicians often spend 40 percent to 50 percent of their day in administrative activities like EHR documentation, greatly reducing the time available to attend to patients. With devices such as Glass, physicians can forego this time-consuming manual capture of patient data. They can seamlessly retrieve or input information into clinical applications according to each patient, possibly even at the point of care. They can even scroll through medical images or diagnostic reports while performing other tasks or view multiple studies from various sources simultaneously. The mobility and visual capability of Glass allows physicians to make better use of their time, greatly enhancing productivity and care quality.
- Positively impacting the surgery setting - Another area where the quality of care can be optimized is in the operating room. Due to the hands-free nature of the device, doctors can simultaneously monitor patient vital stats without looking away from the patient, reducing the probability of surgical errors.
- Providing a ‘first person’ view - Google Glass’ ability to capture and transmit audio-visual content means that users can share a ‘first person’ view of the care setting. Visuals of a patient visit, the operating room, an emergency care setting and much more can be transmitted exactly as the care giver sees it.
In areas like home care nursing or emergency care services, Google Glass can be especially effective in helping caregivers relay information about a patient’s condition in real time, and can thereby provide immediate interventional care if necessary. While these are enticing possibilities, physicians and technology teams must ensure this information is shared in a HIPAA-compliant manner.
Enhancing consumer engagement
Outside the hospital setting, Google Glass has potentially greater use as a consumer engagement tool. For consumers, Glass is an integrated interface for reminders or alerts about a wide variety of issues. This feature makes Glass a ‘known and accepted’ tool for receiving personal healthcare information, in addition to other personal data.
Glass can be an effective mechanism for receiving healthcare-specific alerts and reminders, as it not only fits into the user’s daily routine but is also expected to be a device that is always on. For example, with degenerative conditions like Parkinson’s, where patients may face challenges remembering medications or appointments, Glass, if worn constantly, may be a viable option for providing personal reminders or emergency contact details that literally appear ‘in your face.’
Concerns around data privacy
While there are many areas where Glass can make a significant impact, a few issues will need to be addressed by the healthcare industry. The first, and probably the most important, is patient data privacy. These concerns are almost parallel to the issues that arise from mobile devices. For example, according to reports, only about 44 percent of providers encrypt their mobile devices. In its current form, Google Glass does not provide the ability to encrypt, making it even more vulnerable than most mobile devices. Also, an unattended Google Glass with its visual stream turned on is an extremely soft target for data theft and unauthorized access.
In spite of these apprehensions, Google Glass has great potential to favorably impact the healthcare industry. Once Glass is generally available, we will likely see heightened adoption by healthcare organizations and healthcare technology vendors in hopes of addressing some of today’s very pertinent challenges.