Do you want Google Glass in your hospital? Looking at pros and cons.

Technology does not necessarily meet HIPAA requirements

Although some health care professionals believe that Google Glass could be helpful in patient and surgery settings, patient privacy remains a core concern.

In last week's Daily Briefing: Google wants a piece of the eye with smart contact lenses

There has been a "rush of enthusiasm" for the device's possible applications in health care, Vidya Viswanathan writes in The Atlantic. For example, the technology could record doctors' interactions with patients and help with performance improvement, or even free physicians from taking notes in order to focus more on patient diagnosis.

Health IT vendors such as Augmedix and Pristine are selling software for Google Glass created specifically for physicians. The software includes features such as:

  • Secure input and retrieval of patient data from electronic health records;
  • Video-based communications platforms;
  • Voice-controlled checklist applications; and
  • Voice-to-text.

Some health care providers also are developing and testing applications for the device. For example, the FastTrack Innovation in Technology (FIT) program at Boston Children's Hospital is creating "Glass Surgeon," an application that aims to advance and streamline the surgical process.

But both hospitals and consumer advocates have expressed concern about Google Glass's place in health care.

According to Viswanathan, physicians experimenting with Google Glass "are sensitive to" possible HIPAA violations. Alexandra Pelletier, manager of the FIT program at Boston Children's, says the combination of IT and health care sets up a fundamental conflict in philosophy. "It's Google, which wants everything publicly available, and health care, which wants nothing publicly available," she adds.

Doctors use Google Glass during two surgeries

Some patient privacy issues that Google Glass users are dealing with include:

  • Being able to connect to hospitals' secure wireless networks; and
  • Temporarily disabling the camera and visually displaying that there is no recording taking place.
  • Meanwhile, providers have cited other Google Glass limitations, such as
  • Poor camera quality;
  • Short battery life; and
  • The device's potential to heat up over time (Viswanathan, The Atlantic, 7/21).


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