Heather Evans of Seattle tested Google Glass
during surgery realizing its benefits, quick
access to the patient's medical records for one,
and downsides, interacting with the device took
her concentration away from the patient. She only
wore the device for a short time in surgery and
with the patient's permission.
— When Dr. Heather Evans, a trauma surgeon at Seattle’s
Harborview Medical Center, stepped into the operating
room wearing an eyeglasses-like, Internet-connected
device known as Google Glass, she quickly realized its
potential and its pitfalls.
Glass, if she was in the middle of surgery and
encountered an unexpected or unfamiliar condition — a
rare tumor, say — she could use real-time video to
show it to the world’s expert and receive help.
Glass’ eye-level screen, which projects information
right onto the wearer’s retina, she could instantly
see relevant parts of a patient’s chart or get lab
she would never have to put down her surgical
instruments or turn away from her patient on the
a teacher, she could have her students wear Glass and
see through their eyes just where they were having
trouble as they learned a difficult procedure —
putting in a large, intravenous catheter known as a
"central line," for example.
is one of about 8,000 people around the country selected
by Google as "explorers," testing and
experimenting with uses for Glass, expected to be
available for sale next year.
her fellow surgeon-explorers, Evans won the chance to
spend $1,500 on the device by penning a winning tweet
early this year, finishing the phrase: #ifihadglass.....
a computer in the earpiece, and a tiny, eye-level
rectangle that can project text, maps and other
information to the wearer’s eye, Glass responds to
voice commands and can take pictures, stream videos,
make phone calls and do other tasks.
of it as a smartphone, wearable video camera and
computer rolled into one, with the ability to
"see" — and instantly transmit — almost
precisely what the wearer is seeing.
other surgeons, Evans is excited about the potential of
this new device. But she also has learned that Glass has
technical issues that, for now, make it less than ideal
in the operating room, as well as difficult privacy
arise because of complex federal privacy laws, which
govern the transmission of patient information,
including photographs or videos. Other privacy issues
come up just from wearing Glass.
she wore Glass down the hospital hallway, Evans said,
she could be accused of violating privacy.
has particularly prickled privacy advocates, even
earning its own Urban Dictionary epithet — "Glasshole"
— for those who flaunt their early access, wear Glass
into private spaces such as restrooms or instruct the
device — "OK, Glass, take a video" — in
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Seattle, one self-described dive bar has banned the
device — for two reasons, said 5 Point owner David
Meinert: "They are easily abused as an invasion of
privacy, which people should have a reasonable
expectation of in a dive bar, and two, they make people
look really stupid."
such concerns, Evans had some specific tasks for Glass
in mind when she applied to be an early explorer.
win her spot, she linked to a YouTube video showing an
event rarely caught on camera: a man’s heart attack
and resuscitation. A BBC crew, shooting a documentary on
an emergency helicopter service, had just arrived at its
office when the dispatcher suddenly slumped.
crew kept the cameras rolling as emergency workers gave
the man CPR and shocked him with a defibrillator, saving
Evans tweeted, "I would capture more events like
this to learn how we can take better care of
some of her fellow surgeon-explorers — a small
percentage of the explorers — Evans can’t say
enough, fast enough, about the potential of Glass.
you talk honestly to any surgeon, they will admit they
encounter things all the time they’ve never seen
before, with varying levels of comfort," she said.
"Immediately, you could have somebody else’s eyes
on this problem."
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teaching, Glass could capture a medical student’s
perspective — or the patient’s. For students,
knowing how they appear to a patient could be immensely
valuable, she believes.
trauma, in critical care, surgery and medicine in
general, "we try to learn from the things that
happen," Evans said.
BBC crew’s unexpected capture of the emergency workers’
efforts could be deliberate with Glass, she thought.
"We could look back and say, ‘OK, what did they
do right, what did they do wrong, how can we learn from
before Evans took Glass into the OR, she began wearing
the device outside the hospital — at dinner, on public
transportation, walking or riding her bike.
wore it to become familiar with it, she said, and
because she enjoyed the reaction from people. "I
would say it’s probably the single most illuminating
thing that’s happened to me since I became a surgeon,
outside of learning a specific procedure, because it
brings out this wonderment," she said. Even so, it
was months before she finally wore Glass into the OR —
with the patient’s permission, she notes, and
restrictions on the video.
any new technology, you don’t bring it into a
patient-care setting immediately upon seeing it for the
first time," she says. "I needed to have a
real comfort level with them "
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the OR, where she wore the device only briefly, she
found technical challenges. To turn the device on, she
had to look up, taking her eyes away from the patient,
and pay attention to the video recorder.
think interacting with the device when you’re
concentrating on the patient is almost impossible,"
technology is in its infancy, she says, and will
it recently at a national meeting of the American
College of Surgeons, she was instantly surrounded by
need to know what this is and what this does, and decide
how you want to incorporate it into your practice,"
she told them. "Because whether you like it or not,
Rafael Grossmann says he’s the first surgeon in the
world to have used Google Glass during a surgery —
live-streaming to a Google Glass Hang-out, an
invitation-only video chat. He believes technical
problems will get worked out.
a surgeon at Eastern Maine Medical Center, has become a
sort of Glass evangelist in his blog and speaking
always bring Glass up to the forefront in those talks,
because I think it’s what’s happening now,"
Grossmann says. "This is something meaningful —
not just another toy that comes our way and goes away in
a few years."
he participated in what he believes is the first
Glass-to-Glass consultation. A surgeon in Amsterdam
streamed her operation via Glass to Grossmann in a
different city; he asked her questions and projected the
live stream to a big screen where 400 students and
predicts Glass will "revolutionize the way we teach
this revolution, he adds, is really evolution. A small,
wearable, unobtrusive computer is an inevitable step in
the journey from room-sized computer to desktop, to
laptop and most recently, to smartphone.
far, the medical professional societies haven’t issued
guidelines for using the device, which is still
experimental. Companies are working on add-ons and apps
to make Glass useful in the medical world, although
Google spokeswoman Anna Richardson White said her
company is "trying to build Glass so that it
satisfies the needs of general consumers, rather than
focusing in on specific industry use cases."
rumor has it that competitors are on the march.
there’s work to be done, particularly on privacy
sure if I were sitting in the same room as the IT people
here, they would have a heart attack about this
device," Evans said recently at Harborview.
questions: Will Glass become so easy to use that
surgeons routinely wear it during surgeries? Will videos
become accepted parts of a patient’s medical record?
would incorporate it into our practices if it were
secure, safe and added value," Evans said. But for
now, she and Grossmann agree, Glass is all about the
says Grossman, "is the key word."