Dr. Google: Streamlining Hospital Care Using Google Glass


Article by Alison K. Lanier | 901 words

Three Boston-area hospitals have test-run a pilot program with the startup company Remedy to investigate the potential benefits of Google Glass for hectic medical environments. The Remedy app, among others of its kind, aims to use the hands-free eyepiece device not only to bring hospital data to doctors but also to make staff communication more efficient.

Strong Background and a Clear Vision

Remedy’s webpage presents itself with the same simplicity and effortlessness that the creators promise in their app. With the slogan “See more patients”—meant literally, in this case—the app functions as a capture and sharing mechanism for patient data.

Remedy's founders

Remedy founders Gina Siddiqui (left) and Noor Siddiqui (right). Credit: RemedyOnGlass.com

The idea was drawn up and then engineered into its recent pilot by two sisters, Noor Siddiqui and Gina Siddiqui. Each is a force in American and international healthcare in her own right. Noor is the recipient of a Thiel Fellowship, says her Remedy website bio, and has presented her work internationally at platforms such as TEDx and the Singularity Summit, with media attention and sponsorship ranging from The Washington Post to Forbes.

Gina, a former medical student at the University of Pennsylvania, left her final year of school to help found Remedy and “seize this critical moment in wearable markets and health reform,” according to her bio. Her student career included authorship of healthcare pieces for Time, development of a national telemedicine program that drastically reduced patients’ wait time for doctor assessment, as well as work in Botswana, Chile and Pakistan to deliver healthcare using limited resources.

Firsthand Assessment, Remotely

The key to the sisters’ concept is to sync up the activity of various hospital staff members, Tech Crunch explains. The app uses Google Glass’s hands-free utility for photo and video sharing to streamline doctor communication. Normally, patient information—when a new case enters the ER, for instance—is shared by telephone call and verbal descriptions. Remedy envisions replacing this subjective and time-consuming system with the relatively instantaneous sharing of photos and videos via Google Glass’s Remedy app.

In the pilot program, which used a fairly small sample size of twenty-five cases, the doctors did just that. And there were tangible results uniquely enabled by the app’s remote-but-firsthand approach to patient care.

“In one case,” Tech Crunch wrote in its report of the Remedy pilot, “a patient was rushed into surgery because a surgeon using Remedy overruled the physician assistant’s diagnosis. Through the app, they recognized that the patient needed more urgent care.”

Using What’s at Hand

The practical benefits of the app are easy to recognize. These lightweight devices require only voice activation and can be very easily networked into an effective, secure system for sharing patient data. Pictures go flying over hospital networks, which allows for immediate action and removes a level of individual subjectivity in determining patient care. That instantaneous second opinion, as Tech Crunch’s report explains, shows how available technology can be adjusted for numerous purposes.

Noor Siddiqui and Gina Siddiqui believe this is a huge improvement over what they’ve seen in the past. “Doctors and nurses spent more time looking at computer screens than at patients,” says the Remedy website. “Critical moments for the sickest patients were lost looking for imaging results and lab updates buried in unlabeled CDs or huge stacks of printed reports. Paper forms were both redundant over electronic forms and full of contradictory information.”

Changing the organizational system via Google Glass also means that many more patients would have digital image records on entry. It’s easy to follow the logic of Remedy’s claim that “the next stage of our relationship with technology—using wearable devices—should be to benefit our health.”

Doctor using Google Glass

Credit: OSUWMC.MultimediaNewsroom.TV

A Popular Initiative

Remedy is not alone in looking toward futurizing hospital operations. Another like-minded operation, Wearable Intelligence, is a Google Glass startup that recently raised eight million dollars to help both energy and healthcare industries gain secure, portable access to important records. Wearable Intelligence made its name with a successful pilot program at Beth Israel Medical Center, which “has been meticulous with security in its use of Google Glass,” according to the website Healthcare Drive.

While the information shared among staff using Google Glass is kept locked down, the benefits of Wearable Intelligence echo Remedy’s time-saving benefits. One Wearable Intelligence tester at Beth Israel blogged about a time when one patient with an emergency brain bleed couldn’t remember which medicine he had a severe allergy to.

“Unfortunately, this scenario is not unusual,” CIO Dr. John Halamka wrote on his blog. “Patients in extremis are often unable to provide information as they normally would. Google Glass enabled me to view this patient’s allergy information and current medication regimen without having to excuse myself to login to a computer, or even lose eye contact.”

There is a small collection of these kinds of Google Glass services in the works. Augmedix (“Rehumanizing Health Care”) promises to “seamlessly push information to most major Electronic Health Records,” according to its website. Another app, Yosko, “provides efficient patient care coordination” by offering secure messaging and a hands-off module for staff, as its homepage explains.

Tools like Remedy and its sister apps are working in a very practical way to make the most of the hands-free, voice-activated portable computer that is Google Glass. In their various forms, they are already bringing Glass into major medical centers—already making patients better faster.

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