Jul 26, 2014

UC Irvine Anesthesiologists and Surgeons Communicate More Effectively Through the Use of Google Glass

After reading about “EyeSight,” a new medical app developed for Google Glass, Dr. Les Garson, a UC Irvine Health anesthesiologist, and Dr. Zeev Kain, chairman of the UC Irvine Health Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Care, met with the founders of Austin, Texas-based Pristine to discuss the app’s potential to improve efficiency and communication in operating rooms and intensive care units nationwide. They agreed to create a pilot program at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif.

Google Glass is a small computer mounted as a glass box on a conventional-looking eyeglass frame. This technology, conceived as a way for people to conveniently search the Internet, take photos and videos, now has the potential to revolutionize communications in health care. UC Irvine Health anesthesiologists are currently testing Pristine’s EyeSight. The app streams live audio and video to and from Google Glass devices and permits anesthesiologists to monitor cases in multiple operating rooms.

EyeSight is among a suite of medical apps Pristine is perfecting at UC Irvine. On an iPad, a qualified anesthesiologist can simultaneously supervise multiple residents wearing Google Glass. Instead of walking from operating room to operating room, the supervising doctor simply has to tap on a patient case on his or her tablet and will instantly see through the eyes of the resident wearing Google Glass. The doctor can view the operating room, patient vitals and all monitoring devices. Using the software, they can have instant remote presence for consults, training or teaching.

Before Google Glass technology, doctors who wished to remotely access images over Wi-Fi could do so only after manually scrubbing them of personal information so they could transfer them without breaking confidentiality laws. Now, doctors can instantly access images captured through Glass technology since the Pristine apps are fully HIPAA compliant.

UC Irvine Medical Center is no stranger to embracing new technology. In 2010, the university handed out tablets to each of its more than 100 incoming medical students. Today, every student physician is equipped with a device filled with medical texts, reference materials and notes.

According to Dr. Warren Weichmann, who works with the iPad program, “the best sort of adoption of these technologies would maximize a physician’s potential and reach.” He claims Tablets and Glass working together could create “endless opportunities.”

The technology has potential uses beyond the hospital walls. Relatively inexpensive nurses visiting homes can project information about patients back to the hospital and coordinate with experienced doctors and specialists. Using Google Glass, a paramedic administering CPR at the site of a car crash could receive precise instructions from a doctor without ever having to leave the patient’s side. Hands-free devices like Google Glass can be transformative if used properly.

Although the $1,500 device requires continuous wireless connectivity, usually provided by a smartphone, and has a battery that can sustain only a few hours of intense use, both anesthesiologists and surgeons at UC Irvine Medical Center believe the live streaming and audio functionality has tremendous implications for the delivery and cost of healthcare.  As the technology improves and Google continues to work out the kinks, many doctors believe the use of Google Glass in doctor’s offices will increase worldwide.

In general, the rollout of telemedicine has been slow. High costs and slow Internet connections that limit the quality of communication are some of the most common reasons cited for doubts surrounding the widespread implementation of telemedicine. When properly utilized, the technology’s potential costs savings to patients, doctors, and the healthcare industry can be phenomenal.

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