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Google Glass Enters Operating Room

Google Glass prototype lets surgeons view vital signs on a head-mounted display while performing operations, but Phillips isn't promising a commercial product.

Healthcare Robotics: Patently Incredible Inventions
Healthcare Robotics: Patently Incredible Inventions
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Philips and Accenture have jointly demonstrated a prototype of a system that allows surgeons to view vital signs on a head-mounted Google Glass display while performing operations. But Philips said this is only the first step in the research and has not decided whether to turn the prototype into a commercial product.

The demonstration transferred the vital signs data to Google Glass, itself still in the beta stage, from Philips IntelliVue, a system that aggregates patient data from monitors and provides clinical decision support. Brent Blum, lead for wearable device R&D at Accenture Technology Labs, told InformationWeek Healthcare that the two companies created their own interface because the Google Glass Mirror API is still limited.

The advantage of being able to see the vital signs on Google Glass, Blum said, is that the surgeon doesn't have to turn his head away from the patient to look at a monitor. In another use case, a doctor could walk into a patient's room and begin talking to the patient while looking at the key data from an EHR on Google Glass. This could reduce the barrier that arises between doctor and patient when the doctor has to look at a computer screen to get this information, said Frances Dare, managing director of Accenture's connected health business.

[ Google Glass is making other inroads into the commercial realm. Read Google Glass Gets Road Test. ]

Google Glass in hospitals also could, according to a news release, be used to:

-- Call up images and other patient data by clinicians from anywhere in the hospital.

-- Access a pre-surgery safety checklist.

-- Give clinicians the ability to view the patient in the recovery room after surgery.

-- Conduct live, first-person point-of-view videoconferences with other surgeons or medical personnel.

-- Record surgeries from a first-person point-of-view for training purposes.

Google Glass and other wearable displays offer four modes of interaction, Blum noted. Users can touch them, speak to them, tilt their heads or gaze in a certain direction to command the displays to do certain things.

"The prototype we worked on factors in the need for a sterile environment in the OR," he said. "Before the doctor scrubs in, they can tap the side of the display. But later, they're using voice and head tilt to advance it."

Among the possibilities for Glass's voice-recognition capability, he added, are enabling a doctor to control equipment in the OR. A clinician can already use the speech recognition to document his observations in an EHR.

Blum said there's little chance of Glass distracting a surgeon while she's operating, because she'd have to look up and to the right to see the display. Another type of wearable known as a full-field immersive display has a semi-transparent screen that does not block a user's vision, he noted. In the OR, a surgeon wearing this kind of display device could see the site for his incision while also checking the instructions for the procedure.

Google Glass is not the only kind of technology that allows touch-free manipulation of information in the OR. With a device based on Microsoft Kinect technology, for example, some surgeons have used arm gestures to manipulate images on a computer screen while maintaining a sterile environment.

Asked whether Google Glass could be used in conjunction with Kinect, Blum responded, "Gesture control is another option for controlling the display or controlling the other devices in the room. It brings another weapon to the arsenal."

One big challenge in using Glass to provide information during care is that its display is very small. That's fine for vital signs, but might be problematic if a doctor wants to see the summary screen of an EHR.

Blum noted that small screens in general can be a problem in moving from a PC-based to mobile view of EHR data. He believes that vendors will adapt their software to provide only the most critical information to users of Google Glass.

The Google Glass prototype exemplifies what Accenture Technology Labs is all about, he said. "We focus on identifying emerging technologies that are enterprise relevant," he said. "We apply those in new and unique ways to address business challenges and opportunities for our clients."

In this case, he noted, Philips is both the client and a collaborator. But it's up to that company to decide what to do next with the research.

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shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Black Belt
11/30/2013 | 10:20:38 PM
re: Google Glass Enters Operating Room
@ACM – don't you think that once the patient knows about this technology they would understand and cooperate with the doctor?
shakeeb
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50%
shakeeb,
User Rank: Black Belt
11/30/2013 | 10:18:55 PM
re: Google Glass Enters Operating Room
@Alex – not sure if google has already decided on the prices, but this is surely a great innovation that will help millions of doctors around the world.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
10/11/2013 | 2:08:58 PM
re: Google Glass Enters Operating Room
Has anyone actually worn the prototype into an operating room to test it in a realistic scenario? Even if you wouldn't want to risk the surgeon being distracted, I'd think there might be a possibility of another doctor to go into the operating room as an observer.

Any issues with sterilizing the equipment without damaging the electronics?
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
10/11/2013 | 2:06:50 PM
re: Google Glass Enters Operating Room
The challenge is whether this could ever become so unobtrusive that it's clearly an aid, a virtual extension of the doctor's knowledge and memory.
Drew Conry-Murray
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Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Ninja
10/11/2013 | 12:00:27 AM
re: Google Glass Enters Operating Room
I was thinking the same thing as I read the article. I can see it potentially being useful in surgery, and as a training tool, but for interacting with patients one on one? Absolutely not. Doctors already have a poor reputation when it comes to interacting with patients. Having them scanning medical records instead of listening and observing seems like a bad idea.
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
10/10/2013 | 8:15:17 PM
re: Google Glass Enters Operating Room
"In another use case, a doctor could walk into a patient's room and begin talking to the patient while looking at the key data from an EHR on Google Glass. This could reduce the barrier that arises between doctor and patient when the doctor has to look at a computer screen to get this information, said Frances Dare, managing director of Accenture's connected health business."
Talk about overstating your impact - instead of a computer monitor, the barrier will be Google Glass, as the patient will be wondering what the doctor is looking at in his Google Glass, not to mention the doctor being distracted. Rather than enhancing the doctor-patient relationship, I think this application just makes it worse.
Alex Kane Rudansky
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Alex Kane Rudansky,
User Rank: Author
10/10/2013 | 3:27:06 PM
re: Google Glass Enters Operating Room
How long until we see Glass as a fixture in every OR? What are the costs associated with this?
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