We’ve all seen them–if not in “real life,” at least on TV, worn by some celebrity who has volunteered to document his or her red carpet experience by taking live video of the event.
No, not a smartphone–I’m talking about the smartphone’s geekier cousin, Google Glass. Glass combines the capability of a smartphone with the natural advantages of hands-free technology.
These days, Google Glass is gradually becoming more than a cool gimmick as doctors begin to incorporate it into their day-to-day business of healing people. Some doctors are seeing this as a positive development, especially as medical records are increasingly digitized; but many people, doctors and patients alike, harbor serious doubts about the advantages of bringing Glass into the clinic or hospital.
Since Google Glass seems to be swiftly emerging onto the medical scene, both doctors and patients should take into serious consideration the arguments on either side of the matter. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of using Glass as Medical Technology.
The positive aspects of incorporating Google Glass as an accepted medical tool are numerous, and many of them have to do with the fact that Glass has essentially the technology of a smartphone:
- Glass is a powerful tool for analysis and provides easy availability of electronic medical records (EMR) when a doctor meets with a patient during an appointment or ER visit.
- It allows doctors to stay organized more easily.
- It is streamlined and fast and thus a time saver.
- It makes communication possible both between medical facilities–doctors can contact a specialist located at another clinic–and within medical facilities–using Glass, doctors can administer multiple rooms, keep an eye on two or three residents at a time, and even monitor multiple procedures at a time.
Some of the other advantages of Google Glass are unique to the device. Its hands-free nature allows doctors to maintain eye contact with and stay focused on the patient and increases the mobility of the doctor within the room. This can be a great advantage especially during a procedure such as a surgery.
Also, Glass allows for real-time generation of fresh patient data without the doctor having to deal with typing information into a computer, making EMR updates easier.
The negative side of Google Glass is perhaps not quite as obvious as the positive, but it is nevertheless at the forefront of discussions about the tool.
Patient and doctor aversion to Glass has primarily honed in on privacy concerns with the device’s capacity to record and obtain access to highly sensitive information about a patient:
- There are apps available that claim to prevent Google Glass from saving such private material; but, as we know from recent fiascos involving full-body security screening machines, such assurance is unreliable at best.
- The potential for HIPAA violations is a disadvantage for both doctors and patients.
- Both doctors and patients approach Google with some wariness, especially given their recent cooperation with the NSA’s requests for private information about Google users.
- Widespread incorporation of Google Glass as a medical tool will require the development of new apps and the integration of old apps. Insecure apps in general are always a privacy risk, but adaptation of old apps may lead to an even greater risk of cybercrimes.
However, the disadvantages of Google Glass are not all privacy-related. Although doctors see multitasking as more efficient, it is actually a distraction from the matter at hand: caring for the patient. Therefore, Glass may lead to an increase in poor service and even injury of patients. Also, automation of any process–in this case, real-time additions to a patient’s EMR–always leaves more room for errors and negligence of crucial details, which could leave patients at a further disadvantage.
So far, Google has failed to create a Glass device that is actually attractive–Google Glass is just ugly!
Jokes aside, the current bulkiness of the device may seem intrusive and robotic to patients. No doubt future developments will create a Google Glass that looks more like a normal pair of glasses and less like a strange science-fiction gadget. And who knows–perhaps the next step will be Google Contacts!
It turns out Google Glass is a bit more controversial than its developers probably originally intended, particularly concerning its incorporation into the world of medical technology. On the one hand, it has the potential to be a great new tool that will drastically increase the ease with which doctors keep track of patient data, consult other doctors, and stay focused on patient care.
On the other hand, the major privacy concerns intrinsic to a device that accesses and records such highly personal information cannot be taken lightly. Will doctors and patients be able to reconcile the pros and cons of using Google Glass, or will it fall by the wayside as a great idea that stalled in development? That remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, what do you think? Do you see Google Glass as good, bad, or just ugly?
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