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Why Glass will succeed in making the medical industry embrace tech

By Joe Hewitson / August 1, 2013

The medical industry has been historically slow to adopt new technology. Walk into almost any healthcare facility and you’re likely to find outdated computers running an equally aged operating system. However, even with the industry’s reluctance to update their filing policies, Google Glass has positioned itself as a unique mobile solution that just might buck the slow adoption trend.

Knowledge is power

The first and most obvious use for Google Glass in the medical industry is research. Google provides doctors and patients alike with more medical information than you can cram into your cranium, and with Google Glass, doctors will be able to reference this trove of knowledge with unprecedented ease and speed. As prophesied in a recent VentureBeat article, doctors will soon be able to bring up a patient’s medical records and vital signs, query a medical dictionary or call in for a second opinion, all while keeping their hands free for more important things.

Academia can also benefit from the mobility and connected nature of Glass. For example, a doctor could capture a procedure with the built-in camera while simultaneously streaming the feed to nearby residents or medical students around the globe. These aspiring doctors can also use Glass’ augmented reality capabilities to bring textbook diagrams right before their eyes while practicing procedures.

More mobility, less mistakes

Medical professionals are a lot like chainsaw jugglers; the potential for a fatal human error increases every time you throw another object into the mix. Google Glass helps reduce the number of things MDs, nurses and pharmacists have to handle so they can stay focused throughout their shift.

Pharmacists could use the technology to scan QR codes on medication to ensure proper dosage. Nurses could use similar methods to make sure they give the right prescriptions to the right patients. Even liability concerns can be reduced by giving doctors the ability to record patient encounters via the device’s media capturing abilities.

A Swiss Army knife of technology

Glass has the potential to replace devices in everyday life – cameras, headset, tablets – but in the medical field, it’ll be introducing and displacing those devices in one fell swoop. During a patient check-up or appointment, a doctor could pull up records instantaneously, bypassing the computer or tablet that’ll be needed when EHRs become standard. A surgeon could record a groundbreaking procedure, capture still images, make annotations, and send to others all from Glass, removing the need for a video camera and a computer.

When you move out of the office and into the field, Glass’ potential increases, as does its benefit. Paramedics and EMTs can use Glass in place of headsets, radio communication, and GPS, to name a few. A paramedic could query protocol guidebooks, send photos or video to a hospital in advance of arrival, or communicate with other EMTs while in the back of the ambulance, all without having to juggle different devices and gadgets. Glass could potentially become the handiest medical gadget since the stethoscope, but it’ll have to clear a few hurdles first.

What’s holding Google Glass back?

Despite the increased administrative efficiency, potential reduction in malpractice suits and device consolidation, Google Glass continues to attract criticism from the medical establishment. Cardiac anesthesiologist, Dr. Paul Langevine, gave the Washington Post a handful of reasons why Glass isn’t ready for hospitals just yet.

According to Langevine, money is the biggest chink in Glass’ armor. With prototypes going for over a thousand dollars a pop, and no word on the price of general market models, hospitals are wondering if this new tech is worth the investment. But the hardware is only half the cost. If doctors want to make full use of Glass’ video capabilities, it’s going to require a healthy investment in data storage.

In addition to storage, many detractors are worried about patient confidentiality. Glass’ unprecedented ability to record, store and share medical procedures and assessments is a digital double-edged sword. On the one hand, doctors will have greater access to a patient’s medical history than ever before. On the other hand, so will hackers. Keeping this influx of private information safe and secure will be crucial to Glass’ acceptance in the medical field.

With all the legal considerations and system integration left to do, you may have to survive a few flu seasons before a doctor greets you with the futuristic eyewear. Until then, eat an apple a day and keep your eyes on Google.