Google Glass Delivers New Insight During Surgery

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Technology has offered vast improvements to that process and a new technology gadget, the Google Glass, is taking that a giant step further.


Google Glass, a 1.8-ounce computer configured like a pair of eyeglasses, already is gaining popularity in the medical world as a teaching tool, recording surgeries from the surgeon’s point of view and live-streaming that view to colleagues or students. But Theodore has found another application for Google Glass that he believes could transform the way doctors perform surgery.


Cardiothoracic surgeon Pierre Theodore, MD, goes into the operating room with one main goal: getting his patient in and out of surgery safely and efficiently.


Theodore pre-loads CT and X-ray images needed for a procedure, and calls them up in his Google Glass to compare a medical scan with the actual surgical site.


“Often one will remove a tumor that may be deeply hidden inside an organ – the liver, the lung – for example,” said Theodore, who’s also an associate professor in the UCSF School of Medicine. “To be able to have those X-rays directly in your field without having to leave the operating room or to log on to another system elsewhere, or to turn yourself away from the patient in order to divert your attention, is very helpful in terms of maintaining your attention where it should be, which is on the patient 100 percent of the time.”


Theodore is the first surgeon to receive clearance for the use the tech device as an auxiliary surgical tool in the operating room, by a local Institutional Review Board (IRB), an independent ethical review board designated to approve, monitor and review biomedical research involving human subjects. He was introduced to the idea by Nate Gross, MD, co-founder and medical director of Rock Health, a San Francisco-based startup company focused on the future of digital health.


While wearing the Google Glass, data on the “screen” appears in the wearer’s peripheral vision, Gross explained.


“If my vision is a tic-tac-toe board, it would take one of those upper corners,” he said. “It feels like looking in the rearview mirror of your car. That rear view is always there when I need it, but it’s not there when I don’t.”


The key benefit with wearable technology like the Google Glass, according to Theodore, is to make information more accessible to physicians constantly making critical decisions.


“Poor decision-making is a chief source of poor outcomes among patients, he said. “So I think that’s one way the Google Glass can truly help, by providing data when we need the data.”


For instance, physicians can easily call up electronic medical records, a systematic collection of electronic health information about patients that allows clinicians to accurately assess the patient’s medical condition at all times without the need to track down volumes of actual medical record files.


“I truly do think that the general concept of wearable computing technology in health care is revolutionary,” Theodore said. “There really is a tremendous number of potential options for its use and it becomes incumbent upon us to try and think about what the various possible use cases might be.”


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