Slowly the attendants of the second conference of the International Society for Wearable Technology in Healthcare gather in the Amsterdam Medical Centre. At first sight, this looks like a conference like any other, but the careful spectator notices a Google Glass here and there. This is the start of a day filled with technical gadgets. The organisers state: “We are the trendsetters in health care.”
For someone who has never seen a Google Glass, the conference is an eye-opener. Almost every speaker wears one during his presentation. Arms are swung, fingers are pointed in the air and heads are turned from left to right to operate the device. At the same time, the Google Glass visuals are projected on a big screen for the audience. Who thought that Google Glass was dead, should have a look in health care.
Professor Nicolas Terry, director of the Hall Center for Law and Health, USA, says: “Google Glass is a consumer device that took the wrong turn and found itself in professional space.” This describes the situation of Google Glass quite accurately. While consumers fear that their privacy is at stake, medical professionals are developing applications for the device.
Surgeons, for example, can tick off points of their pre-surgery checklist by talking out loud, medical experts can advise caregivers miles away by looking at Google Glass video material and the ambulance crew can transfer vital information to the hospital by wearing the gadget on-site. The main advantage seems to be having your hands free in critical situations.
“Battery life sucks”
However, Google Glass still has some disadvantages. “Battery life sucks. It is horrible”, says Ismail Nabeel, assistant professor of internal medicine at the Ohio State University Medical Center, who researches the use of Google Glass for providing additional information during surgery. He adds that there are major colour differences and a seven second delay when transferring video material. Furthermore, the glasses tend to overheat and need a fast internet connection for data transfer.
Hence, it will take some time before Google Glass will be found in and around the hospital. Until then, medical professionals will have to rely on the other wearables and technological applications presented at the WATCH conference. Teodor Grantcharov, an assistant professor and surgeon from Toronto, developed the Surgical BlackboxTM, which analyses all surgical data and gives detailed feedback to improve the performances of surgical teams. Another example is professor Harry van Goor, surgeon at the Radboudumc, who presented the first results of ViSi Mobile, a set of sensors that provides doctors with patient parameters at any location.