Google Glass Helping ER Doctors in Boston Hospital

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2014-04-17 Print this article Print

Dr. John Halamka, the CIO at the hospital and an emergency room doctor and professor of medicine, told eWEEK that the patient information provided using Glass is only available when a doctor is treating a particular patient. The special software connects wirelessly with a door-posted QR code that identifies the room in which the patient is being seen, which allows the doctor to get the patient's details. When the doctor leaves that room, that wireless connection is broken and the patient's information is no longer available on the device, said Halamka.

"I think of it as a platform, not as a product," he said of Glass. "It gives doctors useful information with secure data inside our hospital firewall." Glass devices out of the box from Google didn't support WPA wireless security, so the custom app used with the devices includes WPA Enterprise security, which is more robust. Multifactor authentication is also a standard with the app used on the devices.

No patient data is stored on the Glass devices used by the hospital, and the still and video cameras that are built into the devices are disabled and are not used at all, said Halamka. "All of the Web services and the data sit on our servers that are controlled by us. Glass is only a conduit that serves up that information."

In addition, the Glass devices, which are painted orange so they stand out, are specially configured so that they can only be used within the hospital's secure network, said Halamka. The devices will not function at all outside of the hospital. They are also stored in a locked safe and must be unlocked and checked out by the doctors who use them at the start of each shift. Charging is provided while the devices are stored, and small external battery packs are also used so that the devices can be used through 12-hour shifts.

The idea for the pilot project involving Glass and health care came directly from Wearable Intelligence, Halamka said. The hospital quickly partnered with the company to experiment with the concept.

So far, patients appear to be supportive of Glass in the ER because they notice that their doctors are able to connect with them more directly, he said. "The patients really like it because the doctor is paying attention to them, instead of looking at a keyboard or a tablet."

After being seen by the Glass-equipped doctors, patients are often asked about the experiences.  "People say they liked the eye contact from their doctors," he said.


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