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A surgeon with Google Glass could look right through you

Wearable shipments to double by 2020, including smart watches, glasses, bands. File photo.

By Majorie van Leijen

The surgeon that carried out the operation had a pair of glasses on her nose, to make her see more. She could see the patients’ medical file, physical condition and her own actions, which she could repeat many times after the surgery.

The pair of glasses worn during this operation were not just any glasses, they were the Google Glass. And the surgeon was not just any surgeon, she was Marlies Schijven, the first to carry out a surgery with the support of the new technology.

Last year in The Netherlands, the first surgery with the help of Google Glass was carried out, as an experiment to discover the possibilities this gadget has for the medical world. Especially surgeons would be interested in using the gadgets, believes Frederic Ehrler, a Knowledge Miner specialised in Medical Information Science who spoke at the Integrated Healthcare Congress in Dubai last week.

“A surgeon would be able to go through several files of information keeping his hands free for the operation,” Ehrler explained. Health records can be rolled out while the surgeon starts the operation. The latest lab results, allergies, medication taken, or the special steps to be taken during the surgery will appear at the corner of the eye.

When using Google Glass during a surgery, the surgen will never have to take his eyes off the patient and constant eye-contact can be maintained, claim the tech-savvy supporters. “I am not so sure about this advantage, because I believe that the patient will notice that the surgeon is looking at something else in the meantime. But the technology does have benefits,” said Ehrler.

“For example, the surgery can be recorded and be viewed again, either by the surgeon for evaluation , or by students and trainees for education purposes.” In fact, students can watch the surgery life as it is streamed onto other devices through the Google Glass.

During the operation carried out by Schijven, the operation was broadcast at a conference a few kilometres away, where a colleague who looked through the eyes of the surgeon commented on what was being done while lecturing the audience. The operation could also be followed live on YouTube, after consent of the family was given.

Although the use of Google Glass is still in its early phase, the options are tremendous, points Ehrler out.

Ambulance personnel could capture images of a patient on the spot and send them to the specialist, as for the information to arrive fast and accurate. Doctors can do their rounds with more information available, providing a better background when they stand at the patient’s bed side. Or, consultation can be done without a physical meeting between doctor and patient, said Ehrler to name a few benefits.

Apart from Google Glass, there is the promising technology called augmented reality, where additional information can be portrayed onto the visual that is being observed. “A surgeon could see what he is going to be seeing before doing the surgery,” said Ehrler.

“This technology is still undeveloped, but is starting to gain interest among medical professionals. Google Glass is a little further in its development and used by some surgeons nowadays."

While technology experts are broadening the options and expanding the range of applications for the medical industry, preparing Google Glass to enter the hospital room, it is up to the medical professional to add the knowledge to their curriculum.

“I believe these technologies will add to the equipment of the medical professional but not replace existing technologies,” Ehrler concluded.