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How a Boston hospital is using Google Glass to save lives

Al Sacco | May 8, 2014
When Glass was first unveiled at Google's annual I/O developer conference in the summer of 2012, it was seen mostly as an expensive novelty that would be available to only a select few "Explorers," at least for a few years. Today, the device is still not widely available, and it still costs $1,500, but it's proving to be much more than novel to some businesses and organizations. (Glass isn't the only form of wearable tech making waves in the enterprise; read "Wearables Offer Promise (and Peril) for the Enterprise" for details.)

When Glass was first unveiled at Google's annual I/O developer conference in the summer of 2012, it was seen mostly as an expensive novelty that would be available to only a select few "Explorers," at least for a few years. Today, the device is still not widely available, and it still costs $1,500, but it's proving to be much more than novel to some businesses and organizations. (Glass isn't the only form of wearable tech making waves in the enterprise; read "Wearables Offer Promise (and Peril) for the Enterprise" for details.)

At yesterday's IEEE Computer Society's "Rock Stars of Mobile Cloud" event in Boston, John D. Halamka, CIO of the city's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), spoke about how he and the hospital's medical staff are using Glass to, quite literally, save lives.

Here's a quick breakdown of the story of how Google Glass saved one BIDMC patient, as told to Halamka by Dr. Steve Horng, one of the hospital's emergency department physicians:

"I was paged emergently to one of our resuscitation bays to take care of a patient who was having a massive brain bleed. 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.

"Unfortunately, this scenario is not unusual. Patients in extremis are often unable to provide information as they normally would. We must often assess and mitigate life threats before having fully reviewed a patient's previous history. Google Glass enabled me to view this patient's allergy information and current medication regimen without having to excuse myself to log in to a computer, or even lose eye contact. It turned out that he was also on blood thinners that needed to be emergently 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. I believe the ability to access and confirm clinical information at the bedside is one of the strongest features of Google Glass."

Halamka's telling of the story was a bit more — for example, he had the doctor holding a syringe full of medicine that could have killed the patient, ready to inject it had he not received a notification via Glass about a serious allergy just in the nick of time.

Glass gets a lot of media attention these days, but much of the coverage has to do with potential future uses and not real-world examples. The crowd in Boston yesterday clearly responded to Halamka's story; more than a few "ooos" and "ahhs" permeated the conference room, as if Halamka had executed some form of magic trick. (I attend a lot of tech conferences and events, and with the exception of select new product unveilings, "ooos" and "ahhs" are not at all common, especially at IT-focused forums.)

 

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