As an emergency room physician rushes to a patient, he glances at a QR code by the door to the patient's room and immediately can see the man's medical history and the nurse's notes.
The information, which the the doctor can see without ever looking away from the patient, may help save the patient's life, and was accessed on Google Glass.
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This isn't a dream scenario for doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. ER doctors there are four months into a pilot program where they are using Google's computerized eyeglasses to help treat patients.
Google's wearable computer, which is still in beta testing, is helping these doctors connect with their patients while accessing the information they need to treat them quickly.
"The grand challenge of health IT has always been about delivering the right information to the right person at the right time," said Dr. Steven Horng, an emergency physician and assistant director of emergency informatics at Beth Israel. "A lot of our interaction is that connection and making patients feel comfortable. The more we can maintain that eye contact and that conversation, the better the patient feels. Google Glass helps us do that."
Google Glass brings the data to the doctors, instead of the doctors going to the data.
Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said he sees a big future for wearable computers in the healthcare field.
"Wearables, like Glass, in the ER, if done correctly, could be a breakthrough for patients and hospital staff," Moorhead said. "It saves time and makes the attending doctor more focused on the patient than the computer."
Beth Israel, a teaching hospital that handles three quarters of a million patient visits every year, has been running a pilot program with Google Glass since December.
The program started with two emergency room doctors sharing four pairs of the computerized eyeglasses. Last week, the hospital expanded the program to include 10 doctors.
The program next will likely expand to cardiology and surgical groups. For the first six months or so, however, the focus is solely on the ER, said John Halamka, a physician and the CIO at Beth Israel.
Halamka said 10 years ago he imagined a device that doctors could use to give them critical patient information -- medical history, x-rays, medication lists, nurses' notes, lab reports -- while they're interacting with the patient.