Google Glass can be used to check emails or search for information on the move. It can also apparently be used to save lives. The Boston Globe reports that Dr. Steven Horng, working at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, was wearing Glass last year while working on a man whose brain was bleeding. Dr. Horng knew that the patient was allergic to certain drugs that would arrest the bleeding, but didn't know which ones. With no time to leave the stricken patient, Horng says he called up the man's medical records on Google's wearable device, found the relevant information, and stabilized his condition.
Dr. Horng used Glass to check the patient's allergies
The story comes as Google this week launches an initiative to showcase the capabilities of Glass when used in the workplace. As a part of the new initiative, Google hopes to attract developers to create Glass-based software for other companies, and offer tech support to business clients. To underpin its claims, Google has been handing its wearables to a wide range of organizations: in addition to hospitals and medical centers, oil workers and sports teams such as the Sacramento Kings and the Washington Capitals have donned the devices.
Speaking to The Boston Globe, Dr. Horng said Glass meant he could spend more time with patients and reduce his busywork. "Rather than having to excuse myself, it means I can quickly access that information without having to interrupt the patient, lose eye contact, or even leave the room." His experiences have resulted in Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center deciding to expand its usage of the device. ER doctors working at the center will wear Glass during their shifts, and use QR codes posted on patents' room doors to access their records.
The Glass device the doctors are wearing isn't standard: it's had its software stripped out and replaced with a version of Android by a company called Wearable Intelligence. The doctors will be able to access information quickly using the modified Glass, but they can't take the device off the medical center's Wi-Fi network, and patient data isn't shared with Google.
These modifications address some of the privacy concerns that have surrounded Google's device since it was first announced, but Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said that Glass still raised issues if worn in environments rich with sensitive patient information. Google's device is conceivably capable of facial recognition — even if the company itself has banned its use in official apps — meaning people could be capable of matching strangers to their medical histories on the street should information leak.
Doctors at the Boston medical center get patient information through Glass from QR codes
But in a blog post written in March, Dr. John Halamka, who works as the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's chief information officer, said that patients had only been "intrigued" when their doctor had worn Glass, and that none had expressed any concerns about the use of the product. Rotenberg agrees that Glass has potential to help workers, saying it "poses almost no privacy risk at all, and could be really valuable" for some industries where the wearer was not necessarily interacting with a customer, such as lumberjacking or car repair.