Could Google Glass Disrupt the Medical Device Industry?

Posted in Information technology by Qmed Staff on August 21, 2013

During a recent surgery, cardiothoracic specialist Pierre Theodore used Google Glass to enhance his information awareness. Google Glass, a wearable computer worn like traditional glasses, gave Theodore the ability to alternate between medical imagery and an actual patient in a seamless way. He equated it to driving with the occasional glance at the mirror.

“I had thought it was going to be a gimmick, but after that I became a zealot,” he noted during a presentation. As time passes on, more physicians may adopt Google Glass as a way to enhance safety and efficacy in the operating room.

Earlier this year, the surgeon Rafael Grossman used Glass to live-stream an endoscopic procedure. Grossman explains that Glass could help facilitate "intra-operative consultations, surgical mentoring and potentiate remote medical education."

It's not surprising then that surgeons are one of the top target demographics for Google Glass developers. Surgeons, and physicians in general, widely use smartphones and tablets for medical applications. As a GigaOm piece put it: "surgeons are high powered, they prize efficiency and they like to play with toys. They’re also well-paid, which doesn’t hurt."

That doesn't mean that Google Glass is a perfect fit for medicine. Theodore explains that physicians are "already overwhelmed by technology.” For Google, finding an effective way to display relevant information will be a significant challenge. In part, the company will have to convince physicians that Google Glass can replace other devices that could require multiple systems to manage.

There are also concerns about the technology's battery life, which may be drained after it is used to capture more than 45 minutes of video. In addition, video could use up a lot of the storage on the device (a total of 16 are available.

One company that holds promise for the use of Google Glass in medicine is Augmedix, a startup created by a veteran of Intuitive Surgical, a robotic surgery system manufacturer. “We’re going to use Glass to reclaim the 25% [of the workday] that doctors spend on the computer, all of the coding, the reimbursement, all that stuff,” said Ian Shakil, chief executive of Augmedix.

While Augmedix hasn’t disclosed many details of its operations, it plans on developing a way to allow physicians to communicate with each other and patients. In particular, the company hopes that Google Glass could reduce the need for traditional documentation. Instead of using a pen and paper, it may be possible to fill out electronic health records through voice transcription or other hands-free technologies.

The technology also could be a boon for manufacturing.