Dr. Szotek acknowledged that Glass itself could possibly cause distraction, but pointed out that it is more likely that it will help protect surgeons from distractions that already exist in what he calls a “cornucopia” of pagers and dings and people coming in and out of the operating room. “The level of distraction right now is extremely high in most cases,” he said. “I think you can actually eliminate some of that with Glass” or other wearable technology.
Explore This IssueSeptember 2014
And, he said, it is vital that surgeons and hospitals respect patient privacy concerns and abide by HIPAA without simply writing off the technology. “I worry that some healthcare providers, and thus their ability to innovate, are getting blocked (from using Glass) because of fear,” he said.
Antonio Marino, MD, a maxillofacial surgeon in Santiago, Chile, uses Glass for videos, picture-taking, sharing notes with colleagues, and training. In November 2013, his surgical center became the first in Latin America to use Glass during surgery.
Dr. Marino’s enthusiasm captures the passion some surgeons have for the devices. “Technology does not stop, and the era of wearable devices will be part of our everyday [activities] and, of course, our professional performance,” he said. The possibilities, he added, “are limited only by imagination.”
At Karmanos and Wayne State, one of the uses of Glass is helping to monitor flap reconstructions in cancer patients. The flaps require constant monitoring, and with Glass, physicians can assess the flap remotely, without having to be present physically. “You could really show—without that person having to drive and be there—exactly where things are and what to watch out for,” said Giancarlo Zuliani, MD, assistant professor and resident program director at Karmanos and Wayne State.
He said he can understand reservations that might surround Glass, particularly the privacy concerns, noting that Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University had to pay $4.8 million in May after a physician attempted to deactivate a personally owned and inadequately safeguarded computer server, releasing protected patient information for access through Internet search engines.
At Wayne State and the Karmanos Institute, a combination of energetic and enterprising residents, along with a physician staff that was not quick to dismiss the idea, led its limited Google Glass use. “The potential in terms of clinical teaching, research, transitions of care, and handoffs is enormous,” Dr. Zuiliani said. “I think a lot of us have said, ‘Well, as long as you’re not hurting anybody and we can do it in a safe and proper manner, why not try it out? If it fails, it fails. But if it’s useful, it could be useful for a whole lot of people.”