The sometimes applauded and sometimes derided Google Glass proved it is more than just a gadget that can possibly impose on people's privacy when it was used by a Boston doctor to help save a patient's life.
Dr. Steven Horng was wearing Google Glass when he quickly needed to look up medical information for a patient who was having a life-threatening brain hemorrhage. Lacking the time to look through the patient's paper medical files or to even run to a computer to find the digital files, Horng used his Google Glass to find the life-saving drug.
Horng started the pilot program that placed Google Glass at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a program that will now be expanded to include the entire emergency room department. The plan will have every doctor starting his or her shift by putting on Google Glass.
"We're doing this to prove that the technology can work and really motivate others to explore this space with us," said Horng, who helped pioneer the use of Google Glass at the hospital.
When the program is up and running, Beth Israel Deaconess will become the first hospital to employ the devices on a regular basis, the hospital said.
Google Glass has a variety of abilities. Using voice commands it can take video, photos or access the Internet. However, these same features have created a storm of controversy with some bars and restaurants barring them on the grounds that their customers could be unknowingly recorded and the images used in nefarious or embarrassing ways.
However, Horng's experience shows there is a practical use for the devices. Beth Israel Deaconess is just one of several medical institutions to try out Glass. The ability to handle important tasks without using their hands makes Glass an useful medical tool.
"And not only is it hands free, it's always on, always in front of you and always giving you information," said Horng, adding he frequently uses Glass to retrieve information that comes up during the course of conversations with patients.
"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," said Horng, who also holds degrees in computer science and biomedical informatics.
The hospital has even made it easier for doctors to access a patient's medical records by using QR codes. The data is linked to a QR code which is then posted at the patients room. Doctor's using Glass, or a tablet, can then capture the QR code and gain instant access to the data.