mHealth advocates have been debating for some time whether Google Glass will offer meaningful value to physicians, or if it will be just another high-tech toy that fades away when doctors can’t fit it into their workflow. With the recent news that Google Glass is now integrating with an EHR, that argument has just been kicked up a notch.
Drchrono, the Mountain View, Calif.-based developer of a free EHR platform that can be accessed via the iPad, iPhone and other mobile devices, calls its new integration the first wearable health record (WHR). Michael Nusimow, the company’s co-founder and CEO, argues that it fits ideally into the physician’s workflow because doctors need to accurately capture the patient encounter and can’t always be typing away on a tablet or laptop.
“You can’t use a tablet during surgeries,” he told mHealth News during a recent interview. “It’s hands-free technology” that answers the physician’s desire for a device that can capture data in real-time, at the point of care, and seamlessly push that data into the patient record.
Nusimow, who has been a Google Explorer since the company first offered the high-tech glasses to a cadre of specially selected users roughly two years ago, said Google Glass enables physicians to have more natural conversations with their patients. In clinical settings such as the OR, it enables the physician to call up decision support tools or take photos or videos without changing the workflow.
“The goal is to make this ubiquitous, not onerous,” Nusimow said. “From my point of view this is one more tool that (the physician) can have to document patient care.”
Google Glass’ ability to capture a doctor’s first-person perspctive makes the technology incredibly relevant, according to Bill Metaxas, who has been piloting the Google Glass-drchrono integration in his San Francisco clinic.
“Images and video make the electronic health record both more meaningful and useful, and help memorialize an encounter much more powerfully than a narrative report,” Metaxas told mHealth News. “Ultimately, consultations and interchange of information between doctors will happen through secure hangouts, allowing more thorough consultations and improving patient care.”
The partnership also drew a positive response from Box, a developer of cloud-based secure content sharing technology and an investor in drchrono.
“Doctors want better workflow for capturing clinical documentation. Glass provides faster alternatives to standard data collection and capture,” said Missy Krasner, managing director of healthcare and life sciences at Box, in a press release. “By partnering with Box, drchrono can broaden its data-sharing options by allowing relevant medical content to be securely shared with patients, family members and other providers involved in patient care.”
Since its unveiling, Google Glass has certainly been a disruptive element in healthcare. It has captured the imaginations of entrepreneurs and clinicians from Maine to California and beyond, spawning incubator clinics like Palomar health’s Glassomics lab, high-profile trials, even instances where doctors have tried out the technology on their own (and, in some cases, had their hands slapped by administrators).
In assessing the value of Google Glass, critics have wondered if it’s capturing relevant data for the health record, or just compiling unstructured information that would have to be filtered and entered at a later date by the physician or a scribe – thereby wasting time and money.
When the drchrono-Google Glass integration was unveiled, one commenter to a story posted in Healthcare IT News (a sister publication of mHealth News under the HIMSS Media umbrella) scoffed at the perceived value to physicians.
“Google glass is an interesting device with huge privacy and social acceptance issues,” wrote the commenter, identified as MD H. “As I think back to encounters I have had with my physician over the years taking pictures, recording and streaming are three things that I wouldn’t want him doing during an encounter. I think that the time savings associated with Glass will be minimal, it will lead to additional layers of time sucking documentation.”
“History shows us again and again that whenever a new technology is introduced into the healthcare arena, medico-legal paranoia will always encourage ‘just one more’ layer of documentation and record keeping on an already overburdened medical care practitioner,” MG H concluded.
“Doctors work to help their patients, and Glass can help make medical documentation more robust,” he argued. “The laws governing the inappropriate disclosure of health information exist to preclude such events. The privacy settings are no more complex than those on current smartphones; ultimately it’s always up to the doctor to ensure that the device is used appropriately.”
Nusimow agrees that Google Glass is “exciting but also challenging” and points out that clinicians have to know what they can and can’t do with the devices. “You’re building on bleeding-edge technology that is changing everyday,” he pointed out.
That’s exactly Nusimow and co-founder Daniel Kivatinos were thinking when they launched the drchrono EHR on the iPad platform in 2010.
“If there’s new technology, we’re going to build on it,” Nusimow said. “And it was obvious that Google Glass was capturing the attention of doctors.”
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