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The Explorer...errr, doctor is in: Google Glass popularity surges among medics

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Hospitals, often racing to bring in the latest and greatest in health care, have surged forward into the future by using Google Glass - not to perform delicate and critical surgery with, yet - but to identify patients and be able to access all their relevant medical detail in the literal blink of an eye.

Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has developed a custom retrieval system for Google Glass, which allows an ER doctor to look up specific information about patients by using Google Glass to scan a Quick response (QR) code on the wall of each room.

The process has been explained by Dr. John Halamka, the hospital's Chief Information Officer, in a blog post.

"We have been able to access our internal web-based ED Dashboard on Glass, in a secure manner that ensures all data stays within the BIDMC firewall.  Clinicians can now speak with the patient, examine them, and perform procedures while simultaneously seeing data from the ED Dashboard in their field of view," explained Halamka.

The hospital has been using this system for the past three months, with four ER doctors, and will be making it available to all interested doctors later this month. Impromptu testing has also been done with about 10 other staff members. All Google components on the devices have been replaced so that no data travels over Google servers. The end goal of incorporating Google Glass into the hospital ER system is to improve the workflow of doctors and medical practitioners by providing application that is reliable and intuitive.

"All data stays within the BIDMC firewall," assured Halamka.

BIDMC patients have been intrigued by Google Glass, according to Halamka. Staff members, however, have responded with a little skepticism, although some staff members who have tried Glass came away impressed. Halamka also said that Glass, when paired with location services, can deliver actionable information to doctors in real time, and this is one of the strongest features of Google Glass.

"Glass is a new medium that seems best suited for retrieval of summarized information and it really differentiates itself when it comes to real-time updates and notifications.  When paired with location services, it will be able to truly deliver actionable information to clinicians in real time.  We believe the ability to access and confirm clinical information at the bedside is one of the strongest features of Google Glass," said Halamka.

MedTech, a Boston-based non-profit organization, is helping to introduce new technology to doctors and health practitioners. It is conducting a Google Glass Challenge, only the second in the nation. The first round was able to gather 23 different pitches on how Google Glass could be used in a clinical setting. The entry that gained the highest score focused on the use of Glass for first responders to transmit data from the field. The data transmitted can be used by hospital staff to prepare for arriving patients even before the patients themselves arrive.  

Google Glass has had a mixed reception ever since it was released. People wearing Glass have been thrown out of bars and cinemas, issued traffic violations, and generally ridiculed. At $ 1,500 a piece, one wonders if it's really all worth it. But this new use of Glass to save lives just might be what can turn public perception around regarding the device, although it's highly unlikely that doctors would actually wear Google Glass when they walk into a bar -- for now.

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