As seen on ArsTechnica.com
By: Jon Brodkin
A tech-savvy hospital in Boston developed a custom information-retrieval system for Google Glass, which lets ER doctors scan a QR code on the wall of each room to call up information about patients.
In the Emergency Department, we’ve developed a prototype of a new information system using Google Glass, a high tech pair of glasses that includes a video camera, video screen, speaker, microphone, touch pad, and motion sensor.
Here’s how it works.
When a clinician walks into an emergency department room, he or she looks at [a] bar code (a QR or Quick Response code) placed on the wall. Google Glass immediately recognizes the room and then the ED Dashboard sends information about the patient in that room to the glasses, appearing in the clinician’s field of vision. The clinician can speak with the patient, examine the patient, and perform procedures while seeing problems, vital signs, lab results and other data.
Beth Israel has been using the Glass application for three months and will make it available to all interested doctors this month. The hospital took its Emergency Department dashboard and integrated it with Glass, making sure to deploy “the same privacy safeguards as our existing web interface,” Halamka wrote. “We replaced all the Google components on the devices so that no data travels over Google servers. All data stays within the BIDMC firewall.”
A custom user interface takes advantage of Glass gestures such as tapping and swiping, scrolling by looking up and down, and voice commands. Information displays were simplified and re-organized to fit the doctors’ view, and as such “Google Glass does not appear to be a replacement for desktop or iPad—it is a new medium best suited for retrieval of limited or summarized information,” Halamka wrote. “Real-time updates and notifications is where Google Glass really differentiates itself. Paired with location services, the device can truly deliver actionable information to clinicians in real time.”
Patients are “intrigued” by Google Glass, but haven’t expressed any concerns about them, according to Halamka. “Boston is home to many techies and a few patients asked detailed questions about the technology,” he wrote. “Our initial pilots were done with the bright orange frames—about as subtle as a neon hunter’s vest, so it was hard to miss.”
During the beta period, Halamka’s team made various modifications including “an external battery pack, increasing the wireless transmission power, pairing the headset with our clinical iPhones, using head tilt to control vertical scrolling, revamping our QR code reader to improve application stability, [and] adding an Android status bar to show wireless connection strength and battery power.”
Dr. Steve Horng, one of the beta testers, recounted a case in which Glass speeded up his ability to treat a patient who was unable to talk at length. “I was paged [urgently] to one of our resuscitation bays to take care of a patient who was having a massive brain bleed,” Horng wrote. “One of the management priorities for brain bleeds is to quickly control blood pressure to slow down progression of the bleed. All he could tell us was that he had severe allergic reactions to blood pressure medications, but couldn’t remember their names, but that it was all in the computer.”
This isn’t unusual for a patient in distress, Horng noted. In this case, “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. It turned out that he was also on blood thinners that needed to be [urgently] reversed. By having this information readily available at the bedside, we were able to quickly start both antihypertensive therapy and reversal medications for his blood thinners, treatments that if delayed could lead to permanent disability and even death.”
Doctors today also commonly use iPads to view patient information.
Beth Israel has deployed Glass to four doctors and conducted “impromptu testing with at least 10 other staff members,” Halamka wrote. Within two weeks, the hospital will do “a full roll-out to all interested clinical providers in the ED.” Halamka believes that wearable computing devices “will replace tablet-based computing for many clinicians who need their hands free and instant access to information.”