How Can Google Glass Transform Medicine?: An Interview with Accenture Connected Health Services


Accenture’s recent Digital Consumer Tech Survey 2014 revealed a growing interest in wearable technology. That’s endorsed by the plethora of new wearable devices on show at this year’s CES. Typical are smart watches and also wearable smart glasses – the pioneer here, of course, being Google Glass.

Glasses are particularly interesting to us here at MedCrunch, because we have a suspicion that their use cases in healthcare are much broader than other wearable categories such as watches. Commercially, it’s also exciting to see consumer-grade devices find professional-grade marketplaces. To find out how great the opportunity really is for G-Glass in healthcare and medical education, we asked the big guys from Accenture. Accenture is currently working in partnership with Philips to find out, with the rollout of its Google Glass IntelliVue Solutions concept.

Many believe that G-Glass and similar products present an opportunity to transform the way in which healthcare professionals work, learn and practise in future, so we spoke to Frances Dare, Managing Director of Accenture Connected Health Services, to find out where G-Glass might go from here. The applications are myriad, indeed there are few aspects of the care delivery process which could not be profitably augmented with G-Glass. But the road is not short, either…

MedCrunch: Google Glass in operating theatres: what is the opportunity for medical education, better care outcomes, or better medical practice?

Frances Dare: “Because Google Glass enables real-time access to both information and interactions, it has the potential to improve clinical practice in various ways. Real-time information that Google Glass could potentially access includes medical research findings, data from electronic medical records or patient health metrics (blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.). This makes data-driven decision support more accessible, enhancing both the quality of care and outcomes for patients.

“Using Google Glass, surgeons could potentially use voice commands for web searches without ‘breaking scrub’ (compromising operating room sterility) or using their hands. The tool could also enable them to identify optimal incision lines by overlaying images on patients’ bodies. Or allow them to make hands-free calls to subspecialists when they encounter something new or unexpected. Other physicians can consult during the procedure by observing through the surgeons’ visual field.  In terms of medical education, Google Glass could enable up-close and real-time streaming of novel and/or complex procedures in operating rooms and other clinical settings.”

MC: If we can overcome barriers like privacy and security, what are cultural battles that we need to fight to get Google Glass accepted in mainstream clinical practice?

FD: “There are a couple of key dimensions that influence a culture of adoption. The first is human factors considerations.  For example, how will a brain adapt to having two visual fields simultaneously?  Given the Google Glass ‘screen size’, what are the limits for information presentation?  Then, patient safety and care quality are naturally key considerations for clinicians, concern for which that can slow adoption.

“Think about talking on a cell phone while driving. Increasingly, studies are showing that the safety issues are just as significant whether drivers use hands-free technology or hold the phone itself.  The risk is that the brain is being asked to process all of the information needed to drive safely (visual information), while simultaneously processing the phone conversation (audio information). To determine the effect of dual-processing in a clinical setting, we need studies that evaluate those sorts of potential issues with technologies like Google Glass.”

“Surgeons could potentially use voice commands for web searches without breaking scrub”

Frances Dare

MC: How can large-scale ventures like Accenture/Philips help to educate medical professionals and students and encourage them to play around, accept and ultimately use Google Glass? What’s the next step?

FD: “The prototype we’ve built in our Tech Labs shows how Google Glass can become more integrated into daily life, and ultimately the healthcare space.  It’s important to create environments where experimentation can take place and understand the type of training needed to prepare clinicians to use Google Glass effectively and safely in practice. There also needs to be support for and participation in the type of research that validates the efficacy of this technology in medical practice.  Medicine is an evidence-based profession, and widespread adoption will rely on evidence-supported practices and protocols.”

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Ben Heubl is a Health 2.0 advocate and an expert in the innovation business consulting arena of this industry. His main interest is how to use technology to make an impact for patients and hereby targeting the intersection between entrepreneurship, open innovation, technology and large corporations. Ben co-organized TEDMEDlive Bologna and is TEDMED delegate, is non-for-profit founder of Health 2.0 Copenhagen, Medstartr (EU division) and MyHealthInnovationBlog. Meanwhile he is a mentor at HealthXL, works with ICG and supports KairosSociety and its student's engagements in healthcare innovation. You can follow him on Twitter (@benheubl)


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