On Wednesday evening at Google’s offices in Cambridge, the finalists of Medtech Boston’s Google Glass Challenge had the chance to participate in a “pitch-off,” demonstrating their ideas for using Google Glass in the medical setting. Ten out of the 13 finalists presented their pitches in person at Google headquarters in Boston.
The event, organized by MedTech Boston, drew a crowd of over 240 medical professionals, health administrators, innovators, and Google employees (and a wait list of 50+). After many qualifying rounds in February and March, these ideas were chosen to advance to Wednesday’s final round out of over 50 ideas submitted by clinicians around the country.
Google Glass, commonly referred to as just “Glass,” has attracted a lot of interest in the medical community because it is a wearable, hands-free technology that has the potential to allow for seamless recording, note-taking, and data-viewing in the operating room or clinic. Five awards were given out at the event to recognize pioneering ideas for using Glass in medicine, with the prize of special consultations with innovation and business experts who can help further these ideas.
Todd A. Theman, a surgical resident in the integrated Harvard Plastic Surgery training program at Harvard Medical School, took home the “Lean and Mean” award for his pitch “Expert on Call,” an idea to use Glass as a tool for physicians in under-resourced areas to connect with specialists for more effective consults. “80 percent of the U.S. landmass has no access to a level one trauma center,” he said during his presentation. “The vast majority of patients don’t need to be transferred such great distances and with great costs.”
The “First Class” award was given to Lilit Sargsyan, a pulmonary and critical care fellow at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, for her pitch “RemoteGuide,” which allows an ultrasound specialist to provide remote expertise to an area that does not have ultrasound experts. She drew from NASA’s remote ultrasound guidance system for inspiration. She also shared a personal story of her grandfather performing an emergent appendectomy via remote telephone guidance to illustrate the life-saving possibilities of improved remote technology.
Timothy Aungst, assistant professor at MCPHS University and editor at imedicalapps.com, won the “Gamechanger” Award for his submission “Bringing the Doctor to the Patient’s Home: Google Glass in VNA Care.” Aungst’s idea is to allow Glass to be used in telemedicine by letting a patient’s progress be evaluated remotely by a doctor. He also discussed the frustrations of providers and patients with phone translation, suggesting that Glass could more seamlessly and realistically integrate this function.
“The patient brings in a piece of paper they wrote in their own language that you can’t read and the translator can’t see,” he said. “You can’t read body language when you’re on a phone.”
His model also calls for using Glass to record the home visit so that a doctor can get a sense of a patient’s environment beyond their medication list. This extra information could be easily uploaded onto the electronic health record (EHR).
“It’s the human element that we really need to treasure,” he said. “To show someone in a natural environment, how they live, translating it back into the service is a really good way for a clinician to understand how a patient is doing.”
Another pitch by Florence Doo, a first-year medical student at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, won the “Freedom Nation” Award. Her submission “Foveor: image handling for the operating room” is a way for surgeons to use voice commands to view and manipulate images in the sterile environment of the operating room. The idea draws on her experience of building an eye-tracker during her undergraduate studies at Wellesley College. Software integrated with Glass would transmit important radiographic images to Glass, as well as manipulate these images with verbal commands to zoom, rotate, and more. In her presentation, Florence noted that the number of monitors in the OR necessitates that surgeons look away from the patient, and this can decrease safety and efficiency.
The last award, “Best Pitch,” was given to “Glass on Call,” a submission from Piyush Gupta, an internal medicine resident at Rhode Island Hospital with Brown University.
“Raise your hand if you love your pager,” he called, to zero hands going up. Piyush proposed using Glass as a hands-free, visual paging device that could provide automatic patient updates with images or video to help physicians prioritize responses. “As all providers know, not all pages are created equal,” he said. His pitch included many original videos to illustrate his point that Glass could make it far easier and efficient for doctors to respond to pages.
The keynote speakers and judges for the pitch competition, some of whom will serve as consultants to the winners in potentially executing their projects, included Nayan Jain, Presidential Innovation Fellow; Rafael Grossman, MD, first to ever use Google Glass during a live surgery; Chris Coburn, VP of Partners Innovation; Karandeep Singh, MD, leader of Brigham and Women Hospital’s first Google Glass application; and Steve Horng, emergency department lead for the Google Glass Project at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Dr. Singh and Dr. Horng each did live demos of the technology they’ve been developing to pull up and efficiently search through patient data on Glass, sharing Glass’s screen with the audience in real time.
“The ED is a really information-intensive place,” said Horng. “Even having a small amount of information can make a critical difference, and timely access can save lives. None of the previous portable devices we tested were wearable until Google Glass.” He said that BIDMC’s studies on clinician workflow have shown that even using an iPad has allowed clinicians to spend 38 minutes less on a computer over an 8-hour shift.
Dr. Singh’s demos focused on how Glass could disrupt the traditional EHR-based framework. He noted that a traditional EHR does not adapt to context, and are absent where you need them most, at the bedside. They also require the physician to “pre-round” by reviewing information in advance at a computer before seeing a patient.
“Before EHRs came about, if you wanted to find out how a patient was doing, you went right to their bedside,” he said. Now, he thinks that Glass could allow doctors to bring back focus on the patient and preserve some of the “art of medicine.”
Following the keynote speakers, pitches, and awards, there was a lively networking session and panel discussion with those who have already had experience testing out Glass in the hospital setting. Dr. Daniel Hashimoto, a general surgery resident at MGH involved in Glass research, said that when approaching patients to ask for consent to wear Glass during their visit, he never wears the actual device until they give the go-ahead.
“I have yet to have somebody turn down participation—most people are just curious,” he said.
Arshya Vahabzadeh, MD, a fellow in child and adolescent psychiatry at MGH, said that at this stage, some physicians hesitate to walk around the hospital using Glass in full-view.
“Some people think you’re actually recording rather than viewing data,” he said. Alia Rashid, MD, an ophthalmic pathology fellow at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, noted that hers is a binocular specialty where there is a need for depth perception, which the current model of Glass (which has a prism only in the right eye) does not provide. She saw potential for Glass as a vision aid for patients with visual impairment.
The panelists were asked what one feature they would most want to change or add in Glass—especially pertinent since there were Google employees in attendance. Glass wasn’t designed specifically for healthcare applications, but as this event proved, there are many looking to expand its use in that space. The features the panelists wanted to improve included camera quality, processing speed, binocular capabilities, diagnostic tools, gesture analysis, and anatomical variation. Read more about these Google Glass medical experts and the research they’re working on in our previous article on Glass in Boston academic hospitals.
A highlight for many attendees, of course, was the opportunity to try out Glass for the first time. Google employees working on the Glass team patiently handed out Glass and taught first-timers how to use it. “Ok, Glass” could be heard all around the room during the break.
Medstro, the new social and professional network designed by physicians for physicians, sponsored the event. Other sponsors included HappyHealth, Google, Google Glass New England, VectorSpect, MIT H@cking Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital’s Hacking Pediatrics, the BWH iHUb, Boston Young Healthcare Professionals, and Health Innovators.
Vidya is the founder of Doctors Who Create (doctorswhocreate.com), which brings together people who want to change the culture of medicine to reward and encourage creativity. She is a first-year medical student at the University of Pennsylvania and is passionate about using the power of innovation and storytelling to improve clinical care.