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Google Glass in the Emergency Department

Google Glass is trying to make inroads into the medical field and there have been several stories about how it is being used in the emergency department. One story begins with how Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is the first hospital in the world to use the glasses for direct patient care. The benefits are reportedly legion: “Information like the patient’s name, their past medical history, even X-rays can all come up with Google Glass and could be life-saving, especially if a patient can’t communicate or doesn’t know their allergies and medications.” Yawwwwn … er, um … WHOA! The physician who is spearheading the Google Glass program at Beth Israel says that “I can say, ‘Page nurse,’ and say, ‘Nurse, can you get me some more sedation, thanks!’ And it will page them automatically all through voice commands and voice dictation.” That’s great. But there are other products out there that do the same thing. Think Vocera. And in Dr. Horng’s example, the nurse would then page the doctor back and say” “Doctor, I’ll get you some more sedation as soon as you put the order in the computer. Administration doesn’t let us take verbal orders, remember?” Then the doctor would have to walk out of the patient’s room, with Google Glass flashing e-mails and cat videos into his peripheral vision, so that he could enter the sedation order into the computer, then re-page the nurse and tell her that the order has been entered, which she’ll probably already know about and will only serve to piss her off because of the needless interruptions from the doctor playing with his new toy. Either that, or the doctor will sit in front of the patient having the following argument with an inanimate object … OK Glass … OK GLASS! Open patient John Smith chart. No, not that one. Close patient John Smith chart. Open patient John … what’s your middle name, sir? … Open patient John Francis Smith chart. Close patient Francis Smith chart. Open patient JOHN Francis Smith chart. Open orders. No, I don’t want hors d’oeuvres. O-PEN OR-DERS. By now, the patient is either annoyed or laughing. In either case, Google Glass probably cost more time than it saved. No sooner did the pixels dim on the first story than another story pops up about how not only did Google Glass just *work* at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, but how Google Glass SAVED A LIFE! It turns out that the same Dr. Horng was treating a patient with a “severe brain bleed” and that the priority in brain bleed patients is to lower the blood pressure. However … dun dun dun duuuuuhhhhhh … the patient was *allergic* to some unknown blood pressure medication and … dun dun dun duuuuuhhhhhh … the patient was also taking an unknown blood thinner. Dr. Horng was able to find the answers “almost instantly” using Google Glass and “was able to administer the right medications to slow the bleeding and save the man’s life.” I call bullshit. Let’s walk through a typical patient experiencing a “severe brain bleed.” First, the patient doesn’t walk up to the registration window saying “Pardon me, ma’am, but I happen to be having a severe brain bleed – left hemisphere, temporal region.” The patient walks up to the registration window (or is brought in by ambulance) saying “I have a headache.” Perhaps the patient has “weakness.” Or maybe the patient is brought in by ambulance unconscious. But a “severe brain bleed” is a diagnosis made after workup, not a presenting symptom. So even with the help of Google Glass, a ...

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