The procedure was a simple one to conduct, but Dr. Rafael Grossmann expressed quite a bit of enthusiasm for someone who just endoscopically inserted a feeding tube into a patient.
That’s because the surgeon was wearing a Google Glass – a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display that looks and feels like a pair of eyeglasses – when he performed the simple surgery on June 20. The procedure was streamed live on the internet via a Google Hangout.
As far as he knew, Grossmann was the first person ever to use Google Glass during a surgery. However, the trauma surgeon at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine did not merely attempt to employ the futuristic technology during a procedure simply to be able to prove it can be done. No, Grossmann has high hopes and big plans for Google Glass as a healthcare tool. He detailed his thoughts on the technology, the procedure, his motivation behind using Glass, and much more in a post that appeared on his personal blog.
The post answered many of the questions I had upon seeing news of the procedure. It also eased some of my concerns about utilizing a very new and unique piece of technology to broadcast an operation live over the internet.
Based on what I read in his blog post and several other articles about his efforts, the patient’s safety and privacy were two chief concerns leading up to, during, and after the procedure. For that, Dr. Grossmann should be commended.
But then there is the matter of his motivations for even attempting to employ the technology during a surgical procedure. Fair or unfair, it’s not difficult to identify this as one surgeon’s efforts to use the public’s interest in Google Glass to gain publicity. That aside, is there anything of significance that can really be gained from wearing Google Glass while operating on a patient?
Here’s how Dr. Grossmann explained his motivations on his blog:
“By performing and documenting this event, I wanted to show that this device and its platform, are certainly intuitive tools that have a great potential in healthcare, and specifically for surgery, could allow better intra-operative consultations, surgical mentoring and potentiate remote medical education, in a very simple way.”
He also offered some perspective on the technology and the future of medicine in this video interview conducted prior to his procedure (it was published on March 20).
To say it’s too early to fully understand the technology and its potential applications in healthcare is a painfully obvious statement to make. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t allow our imaginations to run wild and speculate about potential procedures and situations where Google’s new-fangled device may come in handy in an operating room.
Perhaps Google Glass can be used by surgeons to communicate with people outside the OR, to transmit information almost instantaneously, and maybe even access information relevant to the surgical case for the doctor to process while he continues to conduct the procedure. The possibilities are exciting.
However, I may be making much ado about nothing if the buying public finds Google Glass to be nothing more than a funny-looking pair of “smartglasses” without applications worthwhile enough to justify cost of purchasing it. (It should be noted that the device cost a whopping $1,500 when the developer version was released earlier this year).
Whatever the case may be, Google Glass has made its way into the OR. Now all that’s left to ask is whether it will remain there.